LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN -- The Covenant softball team ended the regular season on Saturday with a doubleheader split of Guilford. The Lady Scots took game one 5-3 behind a stellar start from Cris Gant before falling in the finale 7-3.
Covenant (20-18) earned its 20th win of the season, its second straight 20-win season. The Lady Scots will be the No. 4 seed from the West Division in next week's USA South Tournament and travel to LaGrange for a best-of-3 first round series.
Senior Shannon Schmitt was hit twice in the first game to break a single-season program record for hit-by-pitch with 13. Schmitt is the program's career leader in the category with 32 plunks.
GAME ONE: Covenant 5, Guilford 3
Covenant built a 5-0 lead and Cris Gant tossed five scoreless innings to help the Lady Scots to a 5-3 victory in the first game.
Gant (2-3) was magnificent in the circle. The senior went five innings and scattered four hits, while striking out seven and walking just two. Gant threw 87 pitches, 58 for strikes.
Covenant scored three runs in the second inning as Guilford starter Courtney Lackey struggled with her command. The Lady Scots drew a pair of walks in the inning and Schmitt was hit by a pitch. Madyson Gibbins' bases-loaded walk drove in Shelby Ralston to give Covenant a 1-0 lead. Carlin Labuzan then lifted a sacrifice fly to left, plating Faith Manning, before a wild pitch brought home Madalyn Ames with the third run.
In the third, Covenant was back at it again. A throwing error allowed Shade Epes to score on a fielder's choice from pinch-hitter Kirsten Aanensen before a Gibbins sac fly scored Ralston to make it 5-0.
Guilford would cut the lead in the sixth to 5-3 with three runs, but reliever Sarah Huskey was able to avoid further damage in the inning. Huskey then worked around a leadoff double in the seventh to preserve the win.
Ralston was 2-for-3 with two runs scored for Covenant, while five other players had one hit. Schmitt extended her hitting streak to 12 games by going 1-for-2.
Lackey (6-4) was the losing pitcher for the visiting Quakers. The righty went five innings and allowed five runs, three earned, on six hits with one strikeout. Makayla Carver was 3-for-4 with two RBIs.
GAME TWO: Guilford 7, Covenant 3
Covenant twice tied the score in game two, but a five-run fifth inning by Guilford propelled the visitors to a 7-3 win and a doubleheader split.
Guilford (13-9) had a pair of one-run leads in the early innings, but Covenant came back each time. Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the first, Schmitt put down a successful safety squeeze bunt that allowed Gibbins to scamper home from third to make it 1-1. In the fourth, Covenant trailed 2-1 before a Gibbins sacrifice bunt allowed Manning to score from third.
In the fifth, Guilford sent nine batters to the plate and scored five runs off reliever Tyler Epes (4-7). Katie McNeill's two-run single gave Guilford the lead for good in the frame.
Schmitt was her hitting streak snapped, but the senior produced an RBI in the contest. Six different Scots had a hit apiece. Tyler Epes was tagged with the loss in the circle. Joni Johnson fired two scoreless innings in relief.
Julie Gough (3-1) went the distance for Guilford and allowed three runs on six hits with three strikeouts. Carver was a menace at the plate again as she went 3-for-4 with a home run and three runs scored. Carver was listed on the NFCA Player of the Year Watch List entering the season and led the Old Dominion Athletic Conference in batting average entering Saturday.
Covenant will open the USA South Tournament on Friday, April 6 with a doubleheader at LaGrange. Game time is TBA. The if necessary game three would be played on Saturday, April 7 in LaGrange.
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