by Mark Jagord, sports information assistant
FLORENCE, S.C. – The Georgia College softball team (34-15) was three outs away from advancing to the Peach Belt Conference (PBC) Semifinals when Flagler College (28-25) scored five runs in its last at-bat to win 6-4 at the FMU Softball Stadium Friday afternoon. Down three runs in the bottom of the seventh, senior Whitney Horton (Acworth, Ga.) hit a rocket out of the stadium to draw the Bobcats within a pair but that was as close as Georgia College would get.
The first three innings flew by with neither team producing any offensive threats, but that all changed in the fourth. A pair of Georgia College errors lead to the game's first run. Christen Moon of Flager hit a sacrifice fly to centerfield to score Darcy Cochran, who reached earlier on an error.
It looked as if the game might end 1-0 as the teams returned to the pitchers' duel between Georgia College sophomore Marisa Boyette (Marietta, Ga.) and Saints pitcher Kalyn Loverich (17-10). Almost out of opportunities, the Bobcats finally solved Loverich.
Georgia College had a three-hit, three run sixth inning that put them up 3-1 and left the Bobcats needing just three outs to secure the win.
In the sixth, sophomore Lacey Najafi (Suwanee, Ga.) started things out with a double down the leftfield line and was quickly replaced on the bags with pinch-runner junior Natalie Lampert (Marietta, Ga.).
With one out, senior Whitney Okvist (Kennesaw, Ga.) singled with a hard-hit ball to a diving shortstop, who had no play on the speedy senior. Okvist proceeded to swipe second base for her 163rd career stolen base, and gave the Bobcats runners on second and third.
The Saints walked freshman Danielle Bernstein (Cumming, Ga.) to load the bases. With Georgia College's leading RBI producer at the plate, sophomore Abi LeRoy (Dublin, Ga.) did not disappoint. She hit a double that one-hopped the wall to score Lampert and Okvist and with one swing of the bat the Bobcats went from trailing by a run to having a one-run lead.
Sophomore Taylor Campbell (Warner Robins, Ga.) hit a sacrifice fly to rightfield to score Bernstein and with a 3-1 lead heading into the final inning things were looking good for the Bobcats.
The Saints had other ideas, producing a four-hit, five-run seventh inning. Flagler's Maddy Murphy singled only after a diving lunge by junior Kristen Humphries (Columbus, Ga.) fell just short. The leftfielder stabbed at the ball and appeared to have it momentarily before she hit the ground in an outstanding effort. Boyette gave up her third hit of the game when Flagler's Melanie Oliver doubled and the Bobcats sent freshman Carly Lewis (Seymour, Tenn.) in for the save. After leading the PBC in that category this season, the Bobcats' prospects looked good.
In the six batters Lewis faced, she gave up two hits and three walks with the last walk producing a Flagler run. Boyette returned to the mound, and after walking in a run as well, got the Bobcats out of the inning with a strikeout.
As they have done so many times this season, the Bobcats looked like there might be some magic left in their last at-bats. Horton's solo home run hit the top of the scoreboard and was a foot or two from clearing it completely. Najafi then reached on an error and the Bobcats suddenly had the tying-run at the plate. The Saints defense came through however, and the Bobcat rally fell just short.
Georgia College finished with five hits and left three runners on the bags. Flagler ended the game with six hits and seven stranded runners. Lewis (16-9) took the loss allowing three earned runs.
The Bobcats will now need to rely on an at-large bid to make the NCAA Southeast Regional, the announcement coming in a couple of weeks.
The Georgia College Department of Athletics, two-time winners of the PBC Commissioner's Cup, sponsors 11 varsity athletic programs at the NCAA Division II level. As a Division II program, Bobcat Athletics prides itself on balancing the life of the student-athlete, evidenced by the teams' multiple appearances in post-season competition as well as documented academic success and community-service involvement. Sign up at @GCBobcats on Twitter and Facebook for up-to-the-minute reports, and visit GCBobcats.PhotoReflect.com to purchase photo prints from home athletic contests.