ROCK HILL, SC—The Winthrop softball team’s run through the Big South Conference Championship presented by Musco Lighting came to an end Sunday afternoon as it fell 10-2 in five innings to third-seeded Longwood in the championship game.
Trailing 8-0 heading to the top of the fourth and facing an eight-run rule in five innings, Winthrop did what it has done all year and battle to the end as it scored two runs in the top half of the inning to try and extend the game. With two outs, Sara Allen drew a walk and was replaced at first by pinch-runner Zharne Glover. Jenna Harbin followed with a soft floating single down the right field line and Glover made it all the way to third base for runners at the corners. Melanie Andrea reached on an error to keep the inning alive as Glover scored on the play. That was followed by a Teja Durante single down the left field line, scoring pinch-runner Kim Ryder to make it 8-2.
However, Longwood loaded the bases and Kori Nishitomi ripped a double to left over the head of McKenzi Corn to the wall as two runs came around to score to end the game.
With the loss, Winthrop ends the season at 28-29 while Longwood is now 41-18 and will represent the Big South Conference at the NCAA Regionals next week.
“The game just got out of hand,” said Winthrop head coach Mark Cooke, who led his team to its 12th conference championship game in school history. “They hit the ball well and hit it out of the park on us. We made a couple of errors in the first inning that gave them a couple of runs but that team hits the ball well. I’m so proud of our kids. In the fifth inning we could have quit, but we came in and scored two. We battled and runners in scoring position. These kids don’t know how to quit and that’s why we were in the championship game today.”
In the first inning, after the leadoff batter reached for Longwood, a routine grounder to second was bobbled by Kristy Noble as she tried to hurry a throw to second base for the force out. The Lancers took advantage as Chelsea Sciacca came through with a grounder to the hole at third and it shot off the glove of Alex White and into the outfield, which allowed Nishitomi to score from second. Emily Murphy made it 2-0 with a sacrifice fly into foul territory, deep enough to score Brooke Short from third.
The biggest blow in the game came in the fourth inning when Short ripped a line drive to right center that just cleared the fence for a three-run homer. It was her 18th on the year.
Senior Chelsey Schoenfeldt, who finished 1-for-2 at the plate, suffered the loss in the pitching circle as she allowed eight runs (seven earned) on nine hits with a walk and a strikeout as she ends the season 5-9.
Longwood’s Libby Morris earned the win and is now 21-8 after allowing just two unearned runs on three hits with a walk and two strikeouts.
Schoenfeldt, along with Durante and Corn were named to the 2013 Big South All-Tournament Team. Schoenfeldt finished the tournament with five hits, two runs, two home runs and four RBI. Durante had six hits, a run and two RBI while Corn led the team with seven hits in the tournament and four runs and two RBI.
In addition to her seven hits in the tournament, Corn finishes the season with a .408 batting average. She’s the sixth different player in school history to bat .400 or more in a single-season. Her .408 average is the seventh best in school history for a season. Schoenfeldt finishes her career as the school’s all-time home run leader with 33 and her 59 RBI in a single-season is the second most in school history.
It was the 12th conference tournament championship game appearance for Winthrop, which is tied with Coastal Carolina for the most in league history. It was the 10th appearance under Cooke and eighth since 2001. It is the seventh runner-up for the Eagles in school history.
2013 Big South All-Tournament Team
Libby Morris, P, Longwood (MVP)
Raven Lee, INF, Campbell
Morgan Noad, C, Coastal Carolina
Jessie Winans, SS, Coastal Carolina
McKenzi Corn, OF, Winthrop
Chelsey Schoenfeldt, P/OF, Winthrop
Teja Durante, OF, Winthrop
Brooke Short, UTL, Longwood
Kori Nishitomi, OF, Longwood
Megan Baltzell, C, Longwood