College Softball: Indians in championship game

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 26, 2015

By Mike London

Catawba’s softball team stormed into the SAC tournament championship game with an 11-2 win against Newberry on Saturday in Hartsville, S.C.

Third-seeded Catawba (28-15) is the only undefeated team left in the double-elimination tournament. Catawba will play in the 1 p.m. championship game on Sunday against Anderson. Anderson would have to beat the Indians twice to deprive them of the tournament championship.

Catawba pounded out 11 hits on Saturday.

“We were ready to play,” said senior first baseman Kim Fesperman, a South Rowan graduate who was a hero in Catawba’s first two wins in the tournament on Thursday and Friday. “It rained quite a bit, but still not as much as they called for. The field wasn’t in terrible condition.”

The Indians did not start well and trailed, 2-0, after the top of the first. Ann Dee Priest and Hailey Drawe drove in runs for fifth-seeded Newberry with two-out singles up the middle against Catawba pitcher Carley Tysinger.

Catawba catcher Taylor Adams turned the game around in the bottom of the first with a three-run homer that followed singles by Kristen Stinnard and Caroline Turner. Holli Chandler added a two-run single for a 5-2 lead before the first inning ended.

There was a short rain delay following the first inning.

Then Catawba built on its lead in the second frame. Natalie Naturile tripled and scored on a two-out single by Gina Gerone. Gerone then scored on a wild pitch for a 7-2 lead.

At that point, the game was halted again for nearly two hours. When play resumed, Emily Huneycutt homered on the first pitch to make it 9-2. Turner and Naturile added RBI singles in the third inning for an 11-2 lead.

Tysinger, the SAC Pitcher of the Year, shut out the Wolves after the first inning and Catawba was able to end the game in five innings. Tysinger (24-9) has won 16 of her last 18 starts.

Turner, Naturile, Gerone and Huneycutt had two hits each. Katherine Shumaker walked three times and scored twice.

Catawba is 18-5 since losing a doubleheader to Carson-Newman in late March. Catawba will play in the tournament final for the third time in five years.

The Indians started this season by losing their first four league games, so they’ve had quite a turnaround.

“We had a really tough time practicing because of the class schedules that we’ve got,” Fesperman said. “But when we have practiced, we’ve worked hard.”

Fesperman and Huneycutt are Catawba’s seniors. Fesperman’s solo homer lifted Catawba to a 1-0 win against Lenoir-Rhyne in the first round of the tournament.

“I was just hoping to do well in my last tournament,” Fesperman said. “And then I hit that home run. It was the most exciting moment of my life.”

With Catawba trailing, 1-0, in the sixth inning on Friday against Lincoln Memorial, Fesperman got down in the count 0-2 before she hammered a 1-2 pitch off the center-field fence for a bases-clearing double. The hit drove home all of Catawba’s runs in a 3-1 win. It was sweet revenge for Fesperman because Lincoln Memorial swept Catawba at Whitley Field on April 11, spoiling Senior Day.

“I just went to the plate  knowing their pitcher always throws me curveballs,” Fesperman said. “I was looking for the curve, she threw it, and I hit it.”

Fesperman will finish class next week and will graduate with a degree in exercise science. But on Sunday, she’ll be thinking about softball, winning the SAC tournament and wrapping up a berth in the Southeast Regional.

“We’re going to win it,” Huneycutt added.