LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN -- The 2016 edition of the Covenant softball team saw the program increase its win total, set program records, pick up some big victories, and say farewell to an outstanding senior class. The Lady Scots, under the direction of head coach Sara Russell, finished 18-21-1 overall and 7-13 in the USA South.
The 18 wins are the most for the program since 2012. Covenant also knocked off eventual USA South Tournament champion Ferrum while also defeating Greensboro, LaGrange and Huntingdon in key conference games.
GAME OF THE YEAR: Covenant 4, Ferrum 3 (March 12, 2016, at Ferrum, Va.)
Coming off sweeping a doubleheader at Mary Baldwin the day before, Covenant looked to keep its winning ways alive against a tough Ferrum squad. That didn't look likely as the first game of the doubleheader went Ferrum's way through much of the contest.
Ferrum held a 3-0 lead entering the seventh inning, but Covenant put together quite the comeback.
Held to just five hits through the first six innings, Covenant responded in a big way in the seventh. Jordan Brett doubled to leadoff the inning and Joni Johnson followed with a walk. Kat Andrews singled home Brett to cut the deficit to 3-1. After consecutive strikeouts the Lady Scots' chances looked bleak, but Morgan Lane produced a clutch two-run single to center field that plated pinch-runners Tyler Epes and Kaitlyn Sirmons to tie the score at 3-3. Two batters later, Madison Quirk came through with an RBI single to left giving Covenant a 4-3 lead.
In the bottom of the inning, starter Cris Gant worked around a one-out triple to keep the tying run at third and complete the comeback victory. Gant went the distance allowing three runs on seven hits with five strikeouts. Lane finished 3-for-4 with two RBIs while Andrews was 2-for-3 with an RBI.
The win was Covenant's third straight overall at the time. Ferrum would win the USA South Tournament in April and advance to the NCAA Tournament.
Five regular players hit over .300 and the team set a program record for batting average.
Leading the way was sophomore Shannon Schmitt as she hit .402 with two home runs and 25 RBIs and was named to the All-USA South honorable mention team. Junior Jordan Brett was hitting just .255 on March 12, but raised her average by more than 100 points to finish the year at .381 with 17 doubles, tying her career-high and single-season program record. Brett had a team-best 13-game hitting streak and reached base safely in 16 straight at one point during the year.
Seniors Morgan Lane and Madison Quirk produced once again in their final year. Lane hit .346 with a team-high four home runs and 33 RBIs and ends her career tied for the program career record for hits with 177. Quirk earned second team All-USA South honors after hitting a career-high .333 with 11 extra-base hits and 24 RBIs. Fellow senior Kendall Whann also hit a career-high .349 with three doubles and seven RBIs on the year.
Sophomore Joni Johnson registered a .348 batting average and led the team with 14 walks, while her twin sister, Jami Johnson, tied a program record with 11 hit by pitches. Sophomore Kasey Hart had 14 extra-base hits and drove in 14 runs out of the leadoff spot. Junior Kaitlyn Sirmons played in 32 games and excelled defensively and was used as a pinch-runner and sophomore Shade Epes started 19 games behind the plate and hit .256 with 16 runs scored.
Hart and Quirk both hit five triples on the year, setting a single-season program record in the process.
Freshmen also showed some promise for the program. Madalyn Ames played in 36 games and hit .286, Carlin Labuzan had a home run and four RBIs on the year, while Megan Wardlaw and Amber Grimes also saw playing time.
As a group, the team scored 208 runs, second-most in program history, while achieving the highest on-base percentage (.399) in the program's nine-year history. The team also had the second-highest slugging percentage (.438), walks (104) and RBIs (181) since the program started.
In the circle, Covenant used an array of pitchers throughout the year. Sophomore Cris Gant shouldered most of the load going 7-7 in a team-high 77.2 innings. Gant had seven complete-games and struck out 67 while limiting opponents to a .278 batting average.
Freshman Carsyn Stone had a solid rookie year as she compiled a 4-3 record with a team-low 3.80 ERA in 59 innings of work. Sophomore Tyler Epes logged 64.1 innings, while Joni Johnson was 3-2 with a 4.24 ERA in 31.1 innings pitched. Sophomore Kat Andrews also made a pair of starts. Collectively, the pitching staff produced the fewest amount of hits and runs since 2012.
Defensively, the team also made strides tying the program record for highest fielding percentage at .954, while making the second fewest errors in the program's history.
USA South All-Conference
Madison Quirk - 2nd team
Shannon Schmitt - honorable mention
USA South All-Sportsmanship
USA South Player of the Week
Shannon Schmitt - April 11
USA South Team Sportsmanship Award
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