HARTSVILLE, S.C. – The King Lady Tornado softball team burst into the 2012 Conference Carolinas Tournament with a bang and a 12-inning, 4-3 upset victory over the Queens (N.C.) Royals. King, ranked sixth in the tournament, pulled out the upset of No. 3 Queens, 4-3 (F/12) and then fought from four runs down to overtake the host Coker Cobras in a thrilling 5-4 win. Christina Melcher ended the day with two home runs and six RBI between two games.
GAME ONE: No. 6 King 4, No. 3 Queens (N.C.) 3 (F/12)
King took a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the seventh and got the first two Royal batters out. Kaitlyn Cheek had not had enough softball and kept her team alive by hitting a solo home run to tie the game on a 3-2 pitch. The homer forced extra inning and it took five extra frames to find a winner.
In the top of the 12th, Christy Kooch (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Cassie Ringstaff (Richlands, Va.) led the inning off with back-to-back singles, but Ringstaff's bunt plus some aggressive base running put runners on second and third with no outs. After Chantel Dodge retired the next two runners, Aubree Hutt (Bristol, Va.) put the ball in play and an error by Queens shortstop Emma Schultz allowed both runners to score, putting King up 4-2.
Hannah Light (Coeburn, Va.) remained in the game to close it out and was met with resilience after retiring the first Royals batter. Nine hitter and second baseman Amanda Meade hit a solo home run to cut the lead to a single run and Light walked the next batter, but forced Chantel Dodge into a harmless fly out to end the game, 4-3.
The Lady Tornado initially got on the board when All-Conference First Teamer Christina Melcher (Orlando, Fla.) hit her deepest bomb of the season. The freshman made a 1-2 offering from Conference Pitcher of the Year disappear over the left center field fence for a two-bomb jack that put King on top, 2-0 in the top of the fourth. Queens' right fielder Megan Lathbury responded in the bottom of the fifth with a solo home run that halved the lead, 2-1.
Light went all 12 innings, allowing three runs on nine hits while striking out six. Melcher and Christy Kooch each had a pair of hits to lead the Lady Tornado in the victory. They advance to the winners bracket and are currently playing the No. 5 Coker Cobras after they upset No. 2 Mount Olive in extra innings, 11-10 (F/8).
GAME TWO: No. 7 Coker 4, No. 6 King 5
King had to truly earn its second victory of the day after falling behind four runs in the first inning, but played beyond their youth with a come-from-behind win in their second Conference Carolinas Tournament game.
Coker made King's chances to stay in the winner's bracket look bleak after tagging King with four runs in the opening inning. Hannah Light earned the nod once again, but allowed four runs to the top of the Coker Cobras. The 1-2-3 hitters of the Cobra order all pounded out hits against Light, the last a RBI single by Sydney Weatherford. Jaclin Poole followed with a sac fly to put Coker up 2-0 before Stacy Burr doubled the lead with a two-run home run to right center.
King retook the lead with a five-run third inning when the offense woke up to rattle Cobra starter Becky Dillon. The Lady Tornado loaded the bases with three straight singles from the 8-9-1 hitters of the order, setting up freshman Cora Milliken (Jacksonville, Fla.) for a run scoring single to left scoring the team's first run of the game. The bigger hit came from freshman Christina Melcher who worked the count, down 0-2 to a full count and picked her pitch to blast over the center field fence for a grand slam, giving King a 5-4 lead.
The home run was Melcher's second of the day, each giving King the lead in a game. They were her fourth and fifth homers of the season.
After her team regained the lead, Light settled down and retired the Cobras in order in the fourth and fifth innings before they turned in their next hit. She continued to cruise, retiring the next three batters to get out of the sixth inning and lead her team into the seventh and decisive frame. Light then turned in her seventh and final strike out against leadoff, pinch hitter Kentesha Jenkins. Roundtree gave a scare by singling up the middle, representing the tying run. Light then forced the next two hitters into fly outs to end the game and give King its second win of the day.
Christina Melcher finished the day with a team best 4-for-8 performance from the plate and tallied six of the team's nine RBI on the day while also being flawless in the field.
With the win, King (32-17) will now play one game on Saturday, April 21 at 11:00 a.m. at Byerly Field against No. 1 North Greenville, who defeated No. 4 Erskine in their most recent game, 1-0. Mount Olive and Belmont Abbey are the first teams to be eliminated from the tournament. The winner of their next game will advance to the Conference Championship game on Sunday while the loser will fight to stay alive at 1 p.m. on Saturday.