The Lenoir-Rhyne Softball Team saw their 2022 season come to the end on Friday in the Southeast Regional. The Bears fell to No. 18 North Georgia 10-0 in the first game of the day then saw a comeback against Wingate fall just short in a 6-5 lost in the elimination game to end their exceptional season. Lauren Rakes hit her 9th home run of the season and Savannah Moorefield added three hits on the day.
Against North Georgia, the Nighthawks jumped on the board with a pair of unearned runs in the second inning. Michael reached on a throwing error by the Bears leading to two runs.
The Nighthawks pushed the lead to 3-0 in the third before Hannah Forehand had the biggest at bat of the day. With two on, Forehand worked an 11-pitch at bat and sent the 11th pitch over the left field wall to make it 6-0 and seal the win.
The Nighthawks would add four runs in the sixth inning to invoke the mercy rule. Those four runs came on three hits and one LR error.
The Bears were held to just four hits and were shutout for the first time this season and the first time in their past 53 games. Lora Beth Wood accounted for half the offense with a pair of singles through the left side.
Against Wingate, the Bulldogs, fresh off a 3-1 win over Carson-Newman in the first elimination game of the day, jumped ahead 1-0 in the first inning with a perfectly executed squeeze play.
LR had the answer with a leadoff double by Moorefield and a bunt moved her to third. Julia Mardigian came through with a 2-out RBI double to even the contest. Unfortunately, LR had a couple of defensive gaffs in the top of the second that led to three unearned Wingate runs. After an out and a walk, LR bobbled a routine grounder to put runners on first and second.
The next batter reached on a bunt single to load the bases but Morgan Beeler struck out Heaven Maness. LR had a chance to get out of the inning but couldn’t get an out on an infield single and then two more runs crossed when a flip to second for a force play was dropped.
LR cut the lead to 4-2 in the bottom of the fifth as Hannah Jennings blooped a single and Katelyn Rackard scored from second. LR had the bases loaded and one out but couldn’t push across another run in the frame.
Bears threatened again in the sixth after a Rakes leadoff double and Wood single, Bears had runners on first and third with no one out. Kory Hammett had a RBI fielder’s choice to get the Bears within 4-3 but Sydney Kale came in relieve to get Jennings to pop out with the bases loaded to keep the gave within one.
Wingate then responded with two huge insurance runs in the seventh to stretch the lead to three, which ended up huge as Rakes hit a two-run homerun in the bottom half but Kale got Wood to pop up to second to send them to the Regional Final tomorrow against North Georgia.
Beeler (15-10) suffered the tough lost in the circle throwing 6 1/3 innings allowing just three earned runs on seven hits striking out three.
Bears dropped to 2-6 against North Georgia in the NCAA Tournament. The teams played twice (2010, 2011) in the super regionals, where the Nighthawks won both series.
LR is now 22-28 all-time in the NCAA Tournament after this regional. Bears are now 14-9 at home in the NCAA tournament.
Wingate will play North Georgia Saturday where the Bulldogs will have to beat the Nighthawks twice to advance to the Super Regional.
Moorefield will finish with 281 hits, one hit shy of tying Erin Boone’s program record. Moorefield’s three-hit game in the second game was her 84th multi-hit game of her career. Rakes will enter her senior year 3 K’s shy of 500 in her career. She will be just the 6th pitcher in program history with 500 career strikeouts.
Leonhardt wraps up her career as the all-time leader in home runs, RBI and slugging percentage.