Lady Canes Softball loses doubleheader to Young Harris

Published 1:44 am Tuesday, April 17, 2018

AMERICUS – The GSW Lady Canes Softball Team got pounded at home 7-0 and 13-5 on Saturday, April 14, by North Georgia, the team atop the Peach Belt Conference standings. GSW was scheduled to host Young Harris in a doubleheader on Sunday, April 15. However, the rains came and the doubleheader was postponed until Monday, April 16.

The Lady Canes were hoping to bounce back against the Mountain Lions, but it was not to be as Young Harris swept GSW in the doubleheader 17-2 and 8-2 at Lady Canes Stadium.

“It’s really about the willingness to work hard every day to get better,” GSW head coach Nicki Levering said. During the team’s post-game meeting after losing Game 2, Levering challenged her squad that they had the ability to compete and qualify for the Peach Belt Conference Tournament, but it would be up to them to decide whether they would be willing to put in the work, or just decide that they weren’t good enough. “You have one week of softball left,” Levering told the team. “Are you going to work your tail off, or are you just going to say, ‘Woe is me. We’re not good enough’. I know you can do it.”

The top eight teams in the PBC make the post-season conference tournament. As of right now, the Lady Canes (18-29, 7-11 PBC) are in the eighth and final spot. Francis Marion is 5-13 and is two games behind GSW for that eighth and final spot. The Lady Canes will host an out-of-conference doubleheader against the University of Montevallo on Wednesday, April 18, with the first game beginning at 3 p.m. Their final two games are crucial conference games against Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL on Saturday, April 21. First pitch for Game 1 of that doubleheader is scheduled for 1 p.m. Flagler is currently 7-9 in the PBC and in the seventh spot.

Elizabeth Wills approaching home plate to be welcomed by her teammates after hitting her ninth homer of the season.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

In Game 1 of Monday’s doubleheader against Young Harris, the Mountain Lions wasted no time jumping out to a 4-0 lead and knocking GSW starter Madason Messer out of the game early. The Mountain Lions scored four runs on five hits in the top of the first inning. The Lady Hurricanes did respond with a run in their half of the first. Mikela Barlow led off with a walk and would later score on a sacrifice bunt by Lauren Kuerzi.

However, Young Harris resumed its bombardment of the Lady Canes in the top of the second.  By this time, GSW reliever Ansley Dean was in the circle. Dean gave up four more runs on a grand slam home run by Murphy Davis, making the score 8-1 Young Harris.

GSW got their final run of the game in the bottom of the second. Elizabeth Wills and Allee Denney started the inning off with singles, followed by a sacrifice bunt by Graysen Sanders. Then Cassidy Burton singled home Wills, but that would be all for GSW offensively in the first game.

Young Harris scored four more runs on three hits in the top of the third inning. A hit batsman and an error by GSW also contributed to the multi-run inning. The Mountain Lions added five more runs on five hits and a walk. The game would be run-ruled in the fourth inning, with Young Harris taking the first game 17-2. In Game 1, the Mountain Lions scored 17 runs on 16 hits and committed no errors. GSW scored two runs on four hits and committed one error.

Madason Messer took the loss and is now 8-7 on the season. Dharma Rosbrugh got the win for Young Harris after pitching 4 1/2 innings of relief for her 19th win of the season.

On a positive note for GSW, senior Allee Denney went 2-for-2 at the plate with two singles.

GSW’s Lauren Kuerzi gets the bat on the ball.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

The Lady Canes would have one more chance to split the series with the Mountain Lions. GSW starter Shannon Gibson gave up a double to Hannah Harrison with one out in the top of the first in Game 2. However, she was able to pitch out of the jam by getting Haylie Shope to fly out and striking out Murphy Davis to end the threat.

Mikela Barlow led off the bottom of the first with a walk, but Chloe Zoeller and Hayley Tierce both struck out. Lauren Kuerzi grounded out to end the first inning.

The Mountain Lions picked up right where they left off in the first game, scoring three runs on five hits, including two home runs by Grace Botti and Sara Alderman. GSW scored their first run of Game 2 in the bottom of the third. With one out, Graysen Sanders singled, followed by a fielder’s choice by Barlow. Chloe Zoeller belted a double to drive in Sanders, and the Lady Canes cut the deficit to 3-1.

The Lady Canes got to within one in the bottom of the fourth when Elizabeth Wills belted a solo home run, her ninth home run of the season. Unfortunately for GSW, that would be their final run of Game 2.

The score would remain 3-2 Young Harris until the top of the seventh. Murphy Davis and Grace Botti reached on two GSW errors. Those errors proved to be costly as the Mountain Lions scored five runs to seal the 8-2 victory.

After giving up three runs in the second inning, GSW starting pitcher Shannon Gibson pitched four scoreless innings before the Mountain Lions scored five runs in the seventh.

GSW falls to 18-29 overall and 7-11 in the PBC. Young Harris improves to 31-14 overall and 13-5 in PBC play. The Lady Canes are still in the hunt for a berth in the PBC Tournament, but to ensure a spot in the tournament, they need to come up with at least one win at Flagler on Saturday, April 21. Otherwise, they will have to hope that Francis Marion (19-23, 5-13 PBC) loses at least one game to Columbus State. Those two teams also play a doubleheader on Saturday, April 21 in Columbus, GA. If GSW loses both games at Flagler and Francis Marion sweeps their doubleheader at Columbus State, both the Lady Canes and Lady Patriots would have the same conference record of 7-13. However, since Francis Marion swept GSW in a doubleheader on Sunday, April 8, they would win the tiebreaker and would claim the eighth and final spot in the PBC Tournament.

In spite of the losses, Elizabeth Wills believes that her team has what it takes to rebound, get into the PBC tournament and pull off some upsets. “I definitely think that we can do that,” Wills said. “We’re a strong group. We’ve got a lot of work to put in, but I think we our team can pull it out.” Wills has nine home runs on the season, second on the team behind Hayley Tierce. “I just try to work hard every day and be present every day,” Wills said. “I make sure that I have the right attitude and effort, give 100 percent and take extra work.”