The Lady Bisons, the No. 2 seed, lost for the second time in the tournament to Mercer, the No. 3 seed. After falling 2-0 Thursday night to the Lady Bears the Lady Bisons fell 10-4 Friday night, their second loss in the double-elimination tournament.
Lady Bisons coach Kristin Peck expressed satisfaction over the successes of the season, but also expressed disappointment in the loss.
“It is not the ending anybody wanted,” said Peck. “We fought hard, but we learned a lot about what it takes to win this things. It didn't happen for us.
“It is a tough tournament. It is hot. It's tiring. But every team is going through it. It is emotional for every team. We had to play two games today in the heat and it took a little bit of a toll on us. But Mercer just came out and beat us.”
Both starting pitchers left the game early. Mercer's Lacey Richardson lasted one-third of an inning as the Lady Bisons jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead in the first. Jenni Holtz, another left-hander, pitched the rest of the way for Mercer.
Christen Campbell, making her first appearance on the mound in the tournament, was replaced in the third inning after giving up a three-run home run to Emi Sherrill in the third inning. In the second, Mercer's Casey Neilson hit a two-run homer in the second inning. Both round-trippers went over the left field fence. Sara Stukes opened the fifth with a home run to center field.
Campbell, who lost her first game in 12 appearances, pitched 2.1 innings. She scattered seven hits and five runs, all earned. She walked one batter. Alaina Jacobson, also making her first appearance on the mound in the tournament, lasted 1.2 innings. She gave up two hits and two runs, one earned. She also walked one batter. Whitney Kiihnl, who had started three games in the tournament, pitched the final three innings. She was touched for three runs, all earned, on six hits. She walked one and struck out three.
Both teams combined for 25 hits. Mercer finished with 15 . The Lady Bisons pounded out 10.
“I felt like our hitting was there,” said Peck. “I felt like our defense was there for the most part. And our pitching wasn't.
“Our pitching is one thing we have relied on a lot and that helped us to have such a good year. Whether our pitching wasn't on or whether they hit us I can't really say.”
In the first inning Lauren Dortwegt opened with a walk. She advances to second on a sacrifice bunt by Courtney Billington. Sirus singled to right field to move Billington to third. Abby Keese reached base on a fielder's choice to the pitcher, driving in Dortwegt. Mollie Mitchell singled through the left side of the field, which prompted Mercer to replace Richardson with Holtz. Campbell welcomed Holtz with a single to right center that scored both Sirus and Keese.
The Lady Bisons added one more in the second inning. With one out Dortwegt was safe on a bunt single to the pitcher. After Billington popped up to the first baseman Sirus tripled to right center to bring Dortwegt home. The ball hit the top of the fence. It was the first triple of the season for Sirus.
“We had a great start,” said Peck. “We had a good first inning defensively and then Mercer started breaking through. Mercer is one of those teams that never seems to go away. They keep battling back.”
The Lady Bisons did not score again in the game, but they had two hits in the seventh by Caroline Mason and Mackenzie Tucker as they attempted one last rally.
Dortwegt, Sirus and Tucker each collected two hits. Keese hit a double that bounced off the wall in left center.
“We had several hard hit balls, and after a great start things didn't work for us,” said Peck. “I think the effort was there. I think the heart, intensity and enthusiasm were there. But on the field we didn't do quite enough.”
The Lady Bisons finished the tournament with a 2-2 record, marking their first wins in postseason in four trips.
“It was huge to win that first game,” said Peck. “You can get to this point by doing all these things all year long, but all three parts of your game have to be strong in every game of the tournament or it is not going to happen.”
The Lady Bisons finished with 39 wins, the most ever for the program in the NCAA era. They lost 14 games, the fewest ever in the NCAA era.
“I am very, very excited with the season we had,” said Peck. “We had the most number of wins, the most number of tournament wins, the most number of all-conference players we have ever had, the most players of the week, the best pitching and maybe the best hitting team we have ever had.”