BRISTOL, Tenn. – King College has advanced to the Conference Carolinas Softball Tournament championship game after defeating top-seeded North Greenville University on Saturday morning. The Lady Tornado beat the Crusaders, 4-1, behind another superb start from workhorse pitcher Hannah Light.
Sophomore pitcher Hannah Light mowed through the North Greenville lineup, allowing six hits and only one run over her seven innings pitched. She struck out four Crusader hitters in her third start of the conference tournament and first of the season against NGU.
King took an early lead when leadoff hitter Aubree Hutt (Bristol, Va.) reached base on an infield single and stole both second and third base, setting up freshman second baseman Cora Milliken's RBI sacrifice fly. They doubled their lead in the third, capitalizing on an error by NGU catcher Amy Nagle. Milliken beat out a bunt and both she and Tiffany Harris (Tazewell, Va.) advanced an extra base on the throwing error. Christina Melcher (Orlando, Fla.) continued racking up RBIs with a grounder to the right side, scoring Harris and giving King a 2-0 lead.
The Lady Tornado were not done at the plate when in the fifth inning Harris started the inning off with a one-out single to left field. With two outs, Milliken blasted a run-scoring double and was driven home when Melcher again answered the call, singling to right and driving home King's fourth and final run. It was all they needed to help back Light in the circle and complete their run to the championship game.
North Greenville scored their lone run on a fielder's choice by Sarah Griffith, whose grounder to short was deep enough to score Rachel Glazebrook from third on the play. Glazebrook had two of North Greenville's six hits. All but one of the Crusaders hits were singles.
King's defense helped quell the NGU offense on multiple occasions, including the sixth when the Crusaders plated their only run of the game. In the bottom of the third, King's combination of All-Conference middle infielders, Cora Milliken and Christina Melcher, turned a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning and prevent NGU from getting on the board early. They stranded another NGU runner in scoring position when Light recorded her third strikeout and Tiffany Harris fielded a liner to right field to end the fourth and the left side of the infield was on lockdown in the sixth when Melcher and third baseman Cassie Ringstaff stopped the bleeding after one run scored, keeping a three-run lead intact going into the final frame. Light took care of the rest, retiring North Greenville in order in the seventh.
Melcher and Milliken both recorded two RBI in the game. Harris and Milliken were the only two Lady Tornado players to record multiple hits. With Melcher's RBI single in the fifth, she keeps her current hitting streak intact, now hitting 11 games. It is her second longest consecutive hit streak of the season when earlier in the year she put together a 14-game hitting streak.
Light earned her third win of the tournament. She is now 18-4 this season in 20 starts and 27 appearances with 19 complete games. With her four strikeouts and zero walks, she now has 124 strikeouts to nine walks this season.
Glazebrook took the loss for North Greenville, allowing four runs on six hits. She struck out nine hitters despite the defeat.
The win advances King to the Conference Tournament championship game that will be held Sunday, April 22. North Greenville defeated Limestone, 6-2, following their game with King to setup a rematch between the Lady Tornado and Crusaders for the Conference Carolinas title. The first of two possible games will be held at 12:00 p.m.
With King coming out of the winner's bracket, the Lady Tornado need to win only one game to be crowned Conference Carolinas Tournament Champions. Should North Greenville win the first game, there will be a second, winner-take-all game to be played tentatively at 2 p.m. Should King defeat North Greenville, they would become the College's first Conference Carolinas team champions since joining the league last May.