Czentnar’s walk-off hit lifts Anderson over LMU Softball

Czentnar’s walk-off hit propels Anderson past Lady Railsplitters in SAC tournament

HARTSVILLE, S.C. – The seventh-seeded Lady Railsplitters (24-24) weathered a stagnant start offensively and a two-hour rain delay, scraping together a game-tying rally in the top of the sixth to give themselves an opportunity to win and pull within one win of the 2015 South Atlantic Conference Championship title game.

With one swing, Courtney Czentnar erased that resilient comeback effort and heartbreakingly ended Lincoln Memorial’s season, coming through with a two-out, walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh to lead second-seeded and No. 23 nationally-ranked Anderson (38-12) to a 3-2 win on Saturday at Byerly Park in Hartsville, S.C.

The Lady Railsplitters, who were playing on the third day of the SAC tournament for just the second time since joining the league in 2008 and the first time since the 2011 event, complete their season with a 24-24 overall record. Anderson advances to another elimination game against Newberry, with the winner moving on to the SAC title series against Catawba.

Right-hander Samantha Smith (Knoxville, Tenn.) threw her first career no-hitter against Anderson just two days ago to open the Lady Railsplitters’ SAC tournament run, but the Trojans had the upper hand offensively at the start.

Cailah Niles blasted a solo home run with two outs in the bottom of the first, while Czentnar belted a solo dinger in the following frame to stake Anderson to a 2-0 lead.

For the better half of the game, that looked like it would be enough for Anderson starting pitcher Lauren Rudesheim, who limited the Lady Railsplitters to a pair of two-out hits, one in the first and one in the fifth, through the first five frames.

But Lincoln Memorial got a much-needed spark from a familiar source in the top of the sixth, as senior third baseman Megan Tice (Orlando, Fla.) chopped the deficit in half with a solo home run to straightaway centerfield, her third long ball in four SAC tournament games.

That swing momentarily opened the floodgates for the Lady Railsplitters, as Teddi Collins (Germantown, Ohio) followed Tice’s homer with a double. After Collins advanced to third on Savannah Couch’s (Colonial Heights, Va.) groundout, senior Jaclyn Cokeroft (Longwood, Fla.) tied the game at two apiece with a base hit back up the middle. Prior to Cokeroft’s clutch hit, the Lady Railsplitters were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.

Reliever Amanda Snow (Knoxville, Tenn.), who took Smith’s place in the bottom of the fourth following a lengthy rain delay, plunked the first batter in Anderson’s half of the sixth before snuffing out a potential rally with a couple of groundouts and a pop out.

Senior Kelly Dreier (Knoxville, Tenn.) drew a leadoff walk in the top of the seventh, but Rudesheim worked out of trouble by inducing a fielder’s choice and a timely 5-4-3 twin killing.

The Niles-Czentner combination proved central to the Lady Railsplitters’ undoing in the bottom of the seventh. Niles notched her second hit of the game, leading off the inning with a double. Snow induced a pair of groundouts, with the first bounce out advancing Niles over to third base, to bring the Lady Railsplitters within one out of forcing extra innings. Czentnar deemed extras unnecessary, though, popping the game-winning single into right field.

Czentnar and Niles accounted for four of the six total hits Anderson accumulated against Smith and Snow. Smith allowed two runs while scattering three hits and issuing five walks over the first three frames. Snow, who was stuck with the loss, served up just three hits and one run over 3 2/3 innings.

Dreier, Collins, Tice, Cokeroft and Meredith Johnson (Kenly, N.C.) recorded a single hit apiece to lead the Lady Railsplitters’ offensive attack.

Rudesheim went the distance for the Trojans, finishing with five hits allowed, three strikeouts and five walks over seven frames.

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