Photo Courtesy of Rita Smith
DAHLONEGA, Ga. – The Lees-McRae College softball team saw its memorable 2019 season come to an end Friday afternoon in Dahlonega, Georgia. The Bobcats did pick up their first-ever NCAA Tournament win as they knocked off Coker College, 1-0, in nine innings before falling to No. 5 North Georgia by a score of 3-2 in 12 innings to end their season. Lees-McRae finishes 2019 with a record of 22-19.
Coker Recap – As the 1-0 final score would indicate, there was not a ton of offense in Lees-McRae's first-ever NCAA Tournament victory. Overall, Lees-McRae logged just three hits in the nine-inning contest against Coker but the one that mattered most came off the bat of Kara Cunningham. The senior, who pitched all nine innings for the Bobcats as well, hit a walk-off inside the park home run to give her team another game in its inaugural trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Cunningham continued to be dominant in the circle for Lees-McRae. The senior from Indian Trail, North Carolina worked around seven hits and three walks on her way to shutting out the Cobras. Furthermore, with a pair of strikeouts, Cunningham became the first Bobcat pitcher to ever record 500 strikeouts in her career. The win pushes Cunningham's record to 15-9 on the season.
North Georgia Recap – The second game of the day for the Bobcats was a tightly contested one. North Georgia scored the first two runs of the game with single runs in the second and third inning. Lees-McRae would tie the game at 2-2 with two runs of its own in the fifth. There wouldn't be any more scoring until the bottom of the 12th when UNG broke the stalemate with a RBI single capping a 3-2 victory and clinching its spot in tomorrow's regional championship game against Young Harris.
Lees-McRae totaled four hits in the contest against the Nighthawks. Noel Cassidy had the only extra-base hit of this group with a double, while Faith Cooke, Katie Robinson and Katelyn Wyatt all contributed singles.
Cunningham closed out her pitching career as a Bobcat with arguably her best performance. The senior pitcher, who threw 301 pitches across the two games, logged 11.1 innings allowing three runs, 12 hits to go along with four strikeouts. Cunningham's record for her senior campaign will close with a 15-10 record.
Looking Forward - The Bobcats are scheduled to return the bulk of this season's team for 2020. Lees-McRae will lose key seniors in Cunningham, Cassidy and Emily Merriam to graduation but figure to bring back 18 players from this season's team.