KINGSPORT, Tenn. - The Union College Lady Bulldogs topped Virginia Intermont today at Domtar Park, 2-0 to earn its first ever Appalachian Athletic Conference tournament title in program history.
With the win, Union now moves to 20-16 (8-8 AAC), while the Lady Cobras fall to 22-28 (9-7 AAC) to end its season.
The Lady Cobras started the contest off with a lead-off double to the corner in left field off the bat of Rachel Cook. A wild pitch early in the next at bat moved Cook to third with no outs in the frame.
From there sophomore Abby Sears (London, Ky.) toughened up, forcing the Lady Cobras into a pop-up, a ground out and a harmless fly ball to retire the side without allowing the runner to score.
The teams exchanged three-up-three-down innings in the bottom of the first and the top of the second, as both hurlers settled into the pitchers circle at Domtar Park.
Union saw its first base-runner in the bottom of the second when Lee Davis (Lexington, Ky.) reached first on a base on balls with one out. Bethany Outland (Hopkinsville, Ky.) followed up the walk with a ringing double off the left field fence, moving Davis to third.
The Lady Bulldogs could not capitalize however, as both Ashley Tatman (Lexington, Ky.) and Jessie Dunning (Bowling Green, Ky.) flew out to end the scoring chance.
Virginia Intermont threatened to score again in the top of the third when Heather Odle ripped a double to left center field with two outs. A running catch in foul territory by Morgan Brown (Waynesburg, Ky.) on the next batter ended the threat and kept the game scoreless.
Morgan Brown turned the stellar catch to end the top half of the frame into a lead-off single to start the bottom of the third. Brown was then moved over to second on a productive ground ball out from Sarah Driver. Gina Loflin (Sailsbury, N.C.) stepped up two batters later and smashed a line drive into left field, scoring Brown from second to put the Lady Bulldogs up, 1-0.
Abby Sears followed up the Loflin single with a single of her own, but the inning came to an end when Lee Davis flew out to left field.
Haley Odle led off the top of the fourth with a hard hit single to center field, but Sears retired the next three Lady Cobras in order to hold the opposition at bay.
Ashley Tatman kept the offensive train rolling for Union in the bottom of the fourth when she smacked a single to left field with one away in the frame. Tatman was left stranded at first however, as Jessie Dunning lined out to short and Morgan Brown struck out looking to end the inning.
The Lady Cobras tried to move a runner into scoring position after a two out walk in the top of the fifth, but Gina Loflin had other ideas as the junior catcher gunned the runner down at second to end the inning.
Union benefitted in the bottom of the fifth inning when a fielding error off of an Ali Blauser single to right center field allowed the sophomore to advance to third with just one away.
Gina Loflin then stepped into the box and added to her already solid performance on the day, ripping a single to center field and scoring Blauser from third and putting the Lady Bulldogs up 2-0.
Abby Sears continued to mow down the Virginia Intermont attack in the top of the sixth as she forced Virginia Intermont into two fly ball outs and ground out to move the contest into the bottom of the sixth with Union on top, 2-0.
The Union bats came stayed hot in the bottom of the sixth inning as the Lady Bulldogs belted out four hits in the frame, but stellar defense on the part of the Lady Cobras kept Union from pushing the advantage to greater that two runs.
Abby Sears returned to the circle in the top of the seventh inning and wasted no time ending the contest, retiring the side in order, capping off the frame with a three pitch strike out to win the title.
Sears (8-7) was magnificent in the circle, going the distance and striking out three, while scattering three hits in the win. The sophomore seemed to pitch stronger as the game progressed, as she did not allow a Virginia Intermont runner to reach second base after the third inning.
Gina Loflin led the Lady Bulldogs offensive attack, going 2-for-3 with both of the Union RBI's.
The Lady Bulldogs now head to the NAIA National Softball tournament in Decatur, Ala. (May 20-26) in search of the national championship crown to go along with its 2010 AAC conference title.