Charlotte softball falls short in quest for conference tournament

49ers lose two of three to Louisiana Tech, eliminated via tiebreakers

| May 9, 2016

In their final conference series and home games of the season, the Charlotte 49ers (32-23, 11-13 C-USA) lost two of their three games against the Louisiana Tech Lady Techsters (31-20, 12-9 C-USA), falling 6-0 and 7-4 in the Saturday doubleheader and winning 6-2 in the Sunday matinee. Needing two victories to secure their place in the conference tournament, the 49ers didn’t get the results they wanted from themselves or other teams in the conference, leaving them as the odd team out in a three-way tie for the last two seeds.

Prior to the game on Sunday, Charlotte recognized their two seniors, Lexi Betancourt and Courtney Carroll. Unfortunately, Carroll missed most of the season with a shoulder injury, but Betancourt was able to start her final game in the circle for the 49ers and picked up her twentieth win of the season, extending her all-time wins record to 72. Freshman Emma Ocker broke her own record this weekend, becoming the all-time freshman leader in runs scored with 38 on the season.

Lexi Betancourt delivering a pitch to the plate. Photo by Leysha Caraballo.

Lexi Betancourt delivering a pitch to the plate. Photo by Leysha Caraballo.

Game 1: Louisiana Tech 6, Charlotte 0

The Lady Techsters broke through early in the first game of the Saturday doubleheader, scoring two in the top of the first inning. Lexi Betancourt uncharacteristically gave up two walks to start, and then a bunt by Louisiana Tech, combined with a throwing error from catcher Taylar Byrne, allowed the first run to come around to score. With runners on first and third base, a single through the right side of the infield brought home Louisiana Tech’s second run of the inning. Still with no outs, Betancourt was able to get two strikeouts and a foul out to end the inning before any further damage.

Charlotte got the offense started in the first three innings, getting two runners aboard in each respective inning. However, the offense stalled out all three times and was never able to bring those base runners home.

Louisiana Tech extended their lead in the top of the fourth inning after a lead-off home run to right field, making it 3-0 Lady Techsters. Another home run, this time to straightaway center by the Lady Techsters, made it 4-0 in the fifth inning.

In the top of the sixth inning, Louisiana Tech added two more insurance runs to their lead, making it 6-0 Lady Techsters. After loading the bases with one out, an unfortunate error by second baseman Lizzy Birch allowed the runners on second and third to come around and touch home.

Betancourt ended the game with only six hits given up, but surrendered five walks and a hit-by-pitch, combined with three Charlotte errors, proved detrimental to the 49ers in their game one loss.

Baiely Rhoney in between innings. Photo by Leysha Caraballo.

Baiely Rhoney in between innings. Photo by Leysha Caraballo.

Game 2: Louisiana Tech 7, Charlotte 4

Louisiana Tech got off to another hot start in the second game of the series, scoring two runs in the top of the first inning again. After loading the bases with just one out, consecutive walks by Haley Wiseman, who took the circle in game 2, allowed both runs to tag home plate and give the Lady Techsters the lead.

The Charlotte offense finally broke through in the second game, cutting into the Louisiana Tech lead in the bottom of the first. Emma Ocker led off with a single and moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt from Bailey Rhoney. A single to left field from Haley Pace moved Ocker to third, and a double to center field from Grace Beatty brought home the freshman and made it 2-1 Louisiana Tech.

The Lady Techsters added another run in the top of the second, after reaching base on a throwing error by Pace and moving to third on a stolen base and advancing on a fly out to left field. With two outs, a double to left center brought home the runner on third base and made it 3-1 Louisiana Tech.

Again, the 49ers cut into the lead in the bottom of the third. Ocker led off with another single and advanced to second on another sacrifice bunt from Rhoney. This time, Pace picked up the RBI with a single up the middle, allowing Ocker to score from second after Coach DeVos waved the speedy freshman home.

Louisiana Tech extended their lead again in the top of the sixth inning, this time blasting a two-out home run over the left field wall to make it 4-2 Lady Techsters. In the top of the seventh, Louisiana Tech tacked on three insurance runs after two 49er errors and a RBI double to left center field.

In the bottom of the seventh, the 49ers were able to start a rally and plate two runs before Taylar Byrne grounded out to second base to end the game.

Emma Ocker slapping a ball right back up the middle. Photo by Leysha Caraballo.

Emma Ocker slapping a ball right back up the middle. Photo by Leysha Caraballo.

Game 3: Charlotte 6, Louisiana Tech 2 

The 49ers picked up their lone victory in the Sunday matinee, dominating all seven innings despite already being eliminated from conference tournament contention. Senior pitcher Lexi Betancourt took to the field for the final time in a 49er uniform and picked up the win, going all seven innings and allowing eight hits and six walks but only two runs against the Lady Techsters.

Charlotte flipped the script in this game, taking the early lead in the second inning. Lizzy Birch led off with a single into left-center field and moved to second base on single up the middle by Taylar Byrne. Sophomore Erin Powers followed those two at-bats with a hit of her own, sending one screaming over the outstretched glove of the Louisiana Tech second baseman, which allowed Birch to come around and score for the 1-0 lead.

The Lady Techsters quickly tied it up again in the top of the third. Betancourt looked to have gotten the second out of the inning until the first base umpire called an illegal pitch on the senior. Thrown off by the call, she walked the batter on the next pitch, walked the following batter and then allowed the tying run to score on a single up the middle.

The 49ers offense responded in the bottom half of the inning, scoring three runs on a massive home run by Grace Beatty. Ocker blooped a single to right field to lead off the inning and moved to second base on a walk by Pace. Next up was Beatty, who blasted a fastball that fans instantly knew was leaving the park.  The home run was just the sophomore’s third on the season, but it gave the 49ers the 4-1 lead.

Charlotte continued their offensive firepower, tacking on more insurance in the bottom of the fourth inning. The catcher Byrne led off with her second hit of the day, this one a double off the wall in right center field. Coach DeVos brought out the speedy Alex Paulson to pinch run for Byrne, looking to take advantage on the base path and add to their lead.

Powers was next to reach base, this time via a fielding error by the Louisiana Tech pitcher. After Ocker was intentionally walked to load the bases and create the opportunity for a double play. Haley Pace avoided the double play with an infield single to short that scored Paulson. Powers came home to score on a wild pitch during the next at-bat, making it 6-1 49ers.

The Lady Techsters added one run in the top of the seventh, but that was all they were limited to by a stellar Charlotte defense. After the game, Coach Aimee DeVos said “We said we were going to finish how we started, and that’s what we did and it’s a great way to go into summer.”

Although Charlotte won’t be participating in the conference tournament this season, the future is bright for this squad. 14 of the 16 girls on the roster this season were either freshmen or sophomores, including every position in the starting lineup except pitcher. The 49ers will also get back Becca Shipper, the transfer from Florida, who led the team in batting until an ankle injury ended her season in late February. Coach DeVos and fans will be expecting big things next season as the 49ers begin their journey to Hattiesburg, MS, the site of next season’s conference tournament.

Photo by Leysha Caraballo.

Photo by Leysha Caraballo.

 

Category:Softball, Sports

Holden Derrick is a sports writer with the Niner Times from Charlotte, North Carolina. He is a Marketing major and a journalism minor. When he has free time, Holden is at some sort of sporting events or spending time with his friends and family.

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Holden Derrick is a sports writer with the Niner Times from Charlotte, North Carolina. He is a Marketing major and a journalism minor. When he has free time, Holden is at some sort of sporting events or spending time with his friends and family.