Spartanburg, S.C. – Hannah Alexander pitched a gem to lead USC Upstate to a 1-0 victory over Kennesaw State in the first game of the A-Sun softball doubleheader, but the Owls came back to take a 7-2 win in game two to split the doubleheader Saturday evening at Cyrill Stadium.
Upstate stands 28-6 overall and 2-2 in the A-Sun following the split against Kennesaw State and Mercer on Friday night. Kennesaw State improved to 19-17 overall and 4-2 in the A-Sun.
"I thought Henderson did a really good job with our hitters today. We just couldn't get on top of her. Hannah Alexander did great for us today. I am okay being 2-2 in the conference opening up with Mercer and Kennesaw State. The weekend showed us what we need to work on in order to be successful for the remainder of the year," said Upstate head coach Chris Hawkins.
Hayley Reinfeld (Parkland, Fla.) made a key defensive play in the top of the second inning of game one, robbing Kennesaw State's Sharon Swanson of a possible home run. Swanson hit a towering fly ball that Reinfeld caught with her arm stretched out over the fence in right center.
It took three innings before either team surrendered a hit and Upstate's Maddison Kieffer (Middleburg, Fla.) got the hit, a single to center. She moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, but was stranded.
Upstate knocked the second hit of the game in the fourth inning when Janna Lewis (Huntersville, N.C.) smacked a double in the gap to right center, moving pinch runner Katelyn Molkenthin (Valrico, Fla.) over to third and putting runners on second and third with two outs. However, Kennesaw State starter Amanda Henderson got a strikeout to end the threat.
Kennesaw State notched its first hit of the game in the top of the sixth when Carly Van Auken hit a bloop single down the line in left with two outs, but Upstate starter Hannah Alexander (Lexington, N.C.) retired the next batter.
Upstate manufactured a run in the bottom of the sixth. Pinch runner Lindsey Greeson (Stanley, N.C.) stole second with two outs and scored on Ashley Butler's (Laurens, S.C.) bloop single into center field to give the Spartans a 1-0 lead. Greeson picked up her 15th stolen base in 15 attempts this season.
Alexander retired the side in order in the seventh to get the win. The sophomore struck out eight and allowed just one hit to improve to 17-2 on the year. Henderson allowed just one run on four Upstate hits, falling to 7-6.
Upstate struck first in game two, picking up a run to open a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Reinfeld led off the inning with a single and moved to third on Shellie Robinson's (DeLand, Fla.) double. Cheyenne Griffin (Moore, S.C.) laid down a squeeze bunt that scored Reinfeld.
Kennesaw State scored its first run of the day and tied the game when Jamie Saunders hit a solo home run to left in the top of the third off of Upstate reliever Lacey Dinney (Hannon, Ontario). Dinney had replaced starter Hannah Alexander to start the inning. The Owls would go on to score at least one run in the next five innings.
The game was halted for 40 minutes due to a lightning delay in the top of the third.
Kennesaw State put two runs across in the fourth inning. The Owls put runners on first and second with no outs. Upstate reliever Casee Clasuer got two straight outs, but allowed back-to-back singles that scored a run each as Kennesaw State opened a 3-1 lead. Kaylee Williams and Saunders picked up RBIs with their hits in the inning.
Upstate rallied back immediately in the bottom of the fifth. The Spartans put runners on first and second with no outs. Upstate had a hit-and-run on, but a swing and miss made the play a double steal. Both runners were safe moving to second and third. Kennesaw State's catcher, though, made the throw down to third with no one covering the base, allowing pinch runner Molkenthin to score on the throwing error and get the Spartans within one, 3-2.
Kennesaw State, though, answered in the top of the fifth when Jessica Cross, who was the starter in the circle for the Owls, hit a solo home run with two outs to put KSU ahead, 4-2. The Owls made it a 5-2 game when Bianca Durant led off the sixth inning with a solo homer to left. The Owls made it a 6-2 ballgame with an unearned run after an error on what would have been the third out in the sixth.
Kennesaw State wasn't done. Cross led off the top of the seventh inning with a solo home run to left to give the Owls a 7-2 lead. It was her second in as many at bats.
Henderson, who took a tough loss in the first game of the doubleheader, finished the game for Kennesaw State to earn the win. She tossed 3.1 innings of work, scattering two Upstate hits to improve to 8-6 on the year. Clauser (2-1) took her first loss of the season in pitching three innings of relief.
Cross led Kennesaw State at the plate with three hits, two RBIs and two runs. Reinfeld and Kelly led Upstate at the plate with two hits each.