BRISTOL, Tenn. – Behind a career day from right fielder Cheyenne Delffs, the King University softball team swept the University of Mount Olive7-2 and 6-0 on Sunday afternoon to retain its lead in the Conference Carolinas standings.
King, which was picked second in the conference's preseason poll behind Mount Olive in January, had never beaten the Trojans in program history. But a four-run sixth inning propelled the Tornado to victory in the first game before Hannah Light twirled a three-hit shutout in the second game to give King the series sweep.
Delffs was the offensive hero for the Tornado, going three-for-six at the plate with six runs batted in and a pair of runs scored. Her bases-clearing double provided the sixth-inning dagger in Game One, and a three-run blast off the foul pole in the fifth inning of Game Two put the game out of reach.
Five Tornado batters pounded at least two hits as part of a 14-hit barrage in the day's first contest. Fallon Thomas recorded the first of her two hits in the second inning on a line drive home run that was about a foot fair as it snuck just above the fence in the left field corner. King carried the offensive momentum into the next inning, as Morgan Lowe, Stephanie Rodriguez, Octavia Lewis-Rand, and Cassie Ringstaff led off the inning with consecutive singles, the last of which scored two runs.
Mount Olive climbed back into the contest with two unearned runs in the fourth after a Tornado fielding error. The score remained 3-2 until the bottom of the sixth inning. Chrissy Melcher rocketed a single to right field, the first hit in her return to the lineup since a knee injury suffered 19 games ago. Consecutive singles by Thomas and Tori McComas made the score 4-2. Delffs then gave the Tornado a five-run advantage as she took an 0-1 offering from Madison Johnston into the gap in left center to clear the bases. The Trojans loaded the bases on two singles and a walk, but Light got her sixth strikeout of the game on a full-count offering to pinch hitter Nicole Taliercio to end the game.
In the second game, both teams left four runners on base through the first three innings and failed to break the scoreless tie. Light retired the Trojans in order in the fourth before allowing her offense to go to work. McComas, who was 2-for-3 with a run scored in the second contest, lined a first-pitch single up the middle with one out. Consecutive singles by Delffs, Lowe, and Rodriguez loaded the bases with a run already in. Ringstaff stepped to the plate with two outs following a strikeout and delivered an infield single to score a run. The inning's third run scored as the throw was wide of the bag at first, giving King a 3-0 lead.
Delffs would double the advantage after another perfect inning from Light. With two on and one out, she lifted a ball down the left field line that undoubtedly had home run distance. The ball clanged off the foul pole 20 feet above the fence and came back onto the field of play, leading Delffs to believe she had hit a double. She clutched her helmet in disbelief as the umpire signaled her home and was met with a mob at the plate to celebrate the first home run of her career.
Light was masterful in her dominance of the Trojans' offense in the second game, at one point retiring 10 consecutive batters and sat down 14 of the last 15 she faced. She didn't issue a free pass in the game and only had two walks on the day while striking out six hitters in each contest.
With the sweep, the Tornado sit atop the league standings, leading North Greenville University by a game with two more league contests remaining than the Crusaders. King will host third-place Limestone College for a conference twinbill on Saturday before concluding the regular season on Sunday, April 13 with a doubleheader against Barton College. The Tornado will clinch the Conference Carolinas regular season title with wins in all four remaining games and would likely win the championship with a split with Limestone and a sweep over Barton depending on various tiebreak scenarios.
The Tornado will step away from conference play for the final time in 2014 with a single game on Wednesday against Virginia Intermont College at Whitetop Park. First pitch is slated for 6:30 p.m.