STATESBORO, Ga. - The College of Charleston softball team knocked off Samford, 8-5, on day three of the Southern Conference Softball Championship at Eagle Field on the Campus of Georgia Southern to extend the Cougars' run through the tournament.
The Cougars will now see second-seeded Appalachian State at later Friday evening at 5:00 p.m.
The Cougars fell behind with Samford's run in the top of the first but captured the lead and never relinquished it in the bottom half of the inning. Samford chipped away at CofC's insurance runs all game long but the Cougars continued to add them back and came away with the win.
Kelsey Hodgson (Woodstock, Ga.) granted CofC the lead with her three-run home run in the bottom of the first inning. Hodgson reached base on all four plate appearances in the game and was 2-for-3 on the day with three RBIs, a walk and two runs scored.
Stephanie Saylors (Easley, S.C.) earned the win for the Cougars in the pitching circle by pitching four innings and holding Samford to three hits and two runs.
"We went down early but we stayed in the present and stayed composed," said head coach Shelly Hoerner. "We were down by one but you have to score to win anyways. We knew what we had to do and we produced the timely hits we needed to stay ahead."
"It was a great feeling to get that pick-me-up after going down in the first inning," said Hodgson. "I was just trying to get on base and saw a good pitch to hit and went with it to right field. We're playing well and our confidence is high but we know we have another game to prepare for so we're staying focused as well. We're just taking it game by game and looking for one win at a time."
Samford managed a run in the opening frame off three walks and a hit by pitch. Starting pitcher Alexa Datko (San Diego, Calif.) composed herself, however, and struck out the side in order to minimize the Bulldogs' damage.
Hodgson immediately put the lead in CofC's hands in the Cougars' half of the first with her opposite-field homer towards the scoreboard in right with Carly Corthell (Reno, Nev.) and Katie Forbes (Odessa, Fla.) on board.
Samford cut the Cougars' lead in half in the top of the third when Brianna Chambers beat out an infield single and Robyn Harmon doubled to open the inning. After an intentional pass to Amanda Jordan, Alex Adams drew the RBI walk to cut the score to 3-2. Just like in the first, Datko regrouped with a pair of strikeouts and innocent fly ball to center field to end the Bulldogs' rally.
The Cougars took the run back plus one more in their half of the third with a two-out rally sparked by a Forbes walk. The next batter, Hodgson, had already beat out an infield single when the Samford third baseman threw the ball over the head of the first baseman, allowing the runners to take second and third. Thursday's hero Katie Pesature (Brewster, N.Y.) - who hit an eighth-inning two-run home run in Thursday's win over Furman - then legged out an infield single to score one run and Kristi Woodall (Huntersville, N.C.) dropped a single in over the head of the second baseman to score the other, putting CofC up 5-2.
Samford chipped away once again in the fourth when Arica Dykes was hit by a pitch, stole second and took third on a bunt single by Kayla Shaffer. Shaffer and Dykes then executed a double steal to move the run across and cut the lead to 5-3.
Once again, CofC regained the insurance run in the bottom of the fifth inning when Hodgson reached on a fielding error and Woodall doubled into shallow right field before Katie Nutaitis (Vienna, Va.) picked up the RBI with a single through the left side.
The Bulldogs charged back once again in the sixth inning with a two out rally triggered by back-to-back singles before Nicole Bobrowski doubled down the right field line to score both runs, making the score 6-5. Adams nearly turned the game with a two-run home run in the ensuing at bat but Woodall made a lead-saving catch extended over the fence in center to preserve the Cougars' lead.
CofC extended the lead back to three in the bottom of the sixth, however, with more late-inning heroics for Pesature. The Cougars loaded the bases with two outs with a pair of walks and a bunt single for Corthell before Pesature singled back up the middle to move two runs across.
Saylors stayed in to pitch the seventh and shut the Bulldogs down in order to preserve the win for the Cougars and advance them to the next round.