Wingate, N.C. - No. 1 seed Lenoir-Rhyne University (50-7) defeated second-seeded Carson-Newman College (36-10) twice, 12-4 and 15-9, to win the 2010 Food Lion South Atlantic Conference Softball Tournament Sunday. L-R, which had to win five straight games to take the crown, won the league tournament for the fifth time in school history.
The Bears, ranked No. 7 in NCAA Division II, also won the Food Lion SAC Softball Tournament in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2007. In addition, L-R gains the SAC's automatic qualifying berth to the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional Tournament.
First Game - Lenoir-Rhyne 12, Carson-Newman 4 (six innings)
L-R sophomore second baseman Carlee Carpenter (Newton, N.C.) and sophomore catcher Sarah Atkins (Newport News, Va.) each finished three-for-five with a home run and three runs batted in as the Bears totaled 17 hits in the contest to force a winner-take-all game.
Lenoir-Rhyne jumped out to a 5-0 advantage in the first inning thanks to a two-run home run by Carpenter and a bases-clearing double by senior designated player Ashley Duckworth (Hickory, N.C.). Duckworth drove in a game-high four runs in the victory for the Bears.
L-R pushed its advantage to 8-0 before Carson-Newman cut the lead in half with four runs in the bottom of the fourth inning on a two-run home run from Sara Little (Calhoun, Ga.) and a two-run single by Jessie Howard (Knoxville, Tenn.).
The Eagles, ranked No. 22 in the nation, wouldn't get any closer while the Bears finished off the scoring with a four-run sixth inning highlighted by Atkins' three-run home run to run-rule the Lady Eagles.
Lenoir-Rhyne freshman Alex Smith (Cocoa, Fla.) was credited with the win after going the distance while Carson-Newman's Mary Shealy (Clinton, S.C.) took the loss.
Second Game - Lenoir-Rhyne 15, Carson-Newman 9
The Bears hit four more home runs including Carpenter's game-winning, three-run round-tripper in a six-run fourth inning en route to the championship.
Carson-Newman fell behind by a 4-0 score but rallied to take the lead with five runs in the bottom of the second inning which included Leah Price's (Spring City, Tenn.) bases-clearing triple.
However, the advantage was short-lived as Carpenter gave L-R the lead for good with a three-run home run in the fourth, her 12th of the season. The Bears plated three more runs in the frame for a 10-5 advantage and never looked back. Carpenter led the Bears with three hits and a game-high four runs batted in.
Junior shortstop Kat Rivers (Royston, Ga.) capped off a four-run fifth inning for the Bears with a three-run home run, her league record 19th of the season.
Rivers, who tallied three hits and three RBI in the win, and Atkins both tied the school single-season record for runs batted in with 53.
Atkins and junior third baseman Brandi Haithcock (Snow Camp, N.C.) added solo home runs for the Bears.
Rivers, the 2010 South Atlantic Conference Player Of The Year, also set the school record for runs scored in a season with 61.
Smith improved 23-4 on the year after pitching the final four and two-third innings while Shealy (15-6) suffered the setback again. Smith won five of the Bears' six games in the league tournament this year.
The 2010 NCAA Division II Southeast Regional Tournament takes place May 14-16.