Maryville College advanced to the USA South Athletic Conference Tournament Semifinals on Friday afternoon, as Alexus Murray used a walk-off RBI single to defeat Averett Univers, 2-1, in extra innings.
The game – a pitching duel between the USA South Pitcher of the Year Katlyn Smith and the USA South Rookie Pitcher of the Year Hannah Thompson – saw just seven combined hits and two earned runs over the first 7.5 innings.
Morgan Brewer and Murray – a senior – changed that in the bottom of the eighth, however. Brewer singled up the middle with one out, before she stole second. Murray promptly laced an RBI single to the gap in right-center, earning the one-run victory in walk-off fashion.
"That's what a senior does," Head Coach Leah Kelley said. "She knows that this time of year, it's so important to step up in big moments like that. She did. She was in a similar situation during her sophomore year, and the right fielder made a great diving catch to end our season. She wasn't going to let that happen again."
The two top pitchers in the league went at it for eight innings, as the pair gave up just nine hits and three earns runs with 10 total strikeouts.
Smith tallied her 19th win of the season, tossing a complete eight-inning game. She allowed five hits, one earned run, and one walk, as the sophomore fanned a trio of Cougars.
Thompson was equally impressive, going 7.2 innings of four-hit ball. She allowed two earned runs, while striking out seven. She also scored Averett's only run with a solo home run in the top of the sixth.
"That was such a huge match-up," Kelley said. "Their pitcher is phenomenal, and to be just a freshman, that kid is going to do great things for that program. Katlyn stepped up and did what she's done all year. She gave us a chance to win. She got some strikeouts, and then, more importantly, when they put the ball in play, our defense was making plays for our pitcher. It was an all-around, team effort that game. It was a great match-up and a great pitcher's duel – the Rookie Pitcher of the Year and the Pitcher of the Year. A 2-1 ballgame, that's what you expect in those. My team knew that going in."
MC remains in the winner's bracket of the conference tournament, as the Western Division Regular Season Champions are playing for the second-straight tournament title.
The Scots take on Salem College tomorrow, April 27, on the Shuford Softball Complex in LaGrange, Ga. First pitch is set for noon.
"That's huge to play in the winner's bracket tomorrow and give us a shot to play just one a day," Kelley said. "It's great. My team knows that, and my team is very experienced in these situations. They know you have to take it one game at a time. We're not looking forward. We're not looking to Championship Sunday. We know the most important game of our season is tomorrow at 12 o'clock."
The Scots used a two-out rally to strike first in the bottom of the fifth inning. Casey Joliff singled up the middle, before Christina White pinch ran. The speedy junior stole second, before Brewer's RBI double to left plated her for a 1-0 MC lead.
Averett struck back quickly, however, as Thompson tied it with one swing. She homered to center in the top of the sixth, forcing extra innings with a 1-1 score.
The heroics of Brewer and Murray came alive in the eighth to clinch the one-run victory.
Maryville College (26-9) was led by Brewer who went 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI. Murray was 1-for-4 with the game-winning RBI, as Joliff added a 1-for-3 effort. White also scored a run for the Scots.
Averett University (28-16) saw their five hits split amongst five Cougars. Thompson led the way with a 1-for-4 day, as she posted an RBI and a run.