It took extra innings but the Lenoir-Rhyne Bears topped Wingate 3-2 in nine innings in the first game of the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional on Thursday afternoon. Savannah Moorefield’s walkoff base hit in the bottom of the ninth gave the Bears their first NCAA Tournament win since 2018 as the two-seeded Bears beat the No. 7 seed Bulldogs.
Hannah Stevens got the Bulldogs on the board first with a solo shot to left field in the top of the third inning. LR would respond in the bottom of the fourth. With the bases loaded, freshman Julia Mardigian drove in two with an RBI base hit up the middle to give the Bears a 2-1 advantage.
Lauren McLaurin had the biggest hit of the game for Wingate with a 2-out RBI base hit to left to even the game in the top of the sixth. Neither team would score in the seventh, sending it to extras.
Rakes set down Wingate in order in the 8th and the Bears had a chance to win it. LR had runners on first and third with one out but Wingate escaped the jam. The Bulldogs looked to wiggle out of trouble in the 9th as well. Lora Beth Wood and Lauren Rakes led off with back-to-back singles but didn’t advance after a failed bunt attempt and a fly out.
Moorefield came up with two-out and two-on and sent one between the shortstop and third basemen. The shortstop dove and deflected the ball with her glove as it trickled into left field. Pinch runner Camryn Bryant came around from second to score as the Bears improved to 38-15 on the year.
Rakes dominated in the circle to grab her 21st win of the year. The junior went nine innings with just five hits allowed and no walks to go with nine strikeouts.
Moorefield finished 2-for-5 and Hannah Jennings was 3-for-4 with a run scored. Kylee Leonhardt added two hits and a walk.
This is the 14th appearance for the Bears in the NCAA and the sixth time they have hosted a regional. Bears move to 22-26 in NCAA Tournament games. Wingate beat the Bears twice in the 2014 regional in Dahlonega, the home of North Georgia.
Moorefield is now five hits shy of breaking Erin Boone’s all-time mark and just four runs shy of breaking Boone’s mark in that category. Rakes became just the second pitcher to top 300 strikeouts in a single season with her seventh strikeout of the game. Her 21 wins rank her 10th in a single-season in team history.
LR’s last tournament win was a 17-0 win over Carson-Newman in 2018. This was Wingate’s seventh trip to the NCAA Tournament and they drop to 6-13 all-time.
LR will host North Georgia in the winner’s bracket at noon on Friday. The winner advances to the championship on Saturday with the loser playing at 5 p.m. on Friday.