BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. – Gardner-Webb (2-2) won both games of a double header on the opening day of the 2017 AmericInn Classic.
The Runnin' Bulldogs won the first game by score 7-3 against Alabama A & M and the second game against East Tennessee State by a score of 8-7 in eight innings – with Megan Champion driving home the winning run for a thrilling victory.
After ETSU tied the score in the top of the seventh, Gardner-Webb rallied in the bottom of the eighth to win in walk-off fashion. Champion's RBI single plated Callie Thornton for the walk-off win.
The scoring started early for the Runnin' Bulldogs, who struck in the bottom of the second inning. Champion ripped a double to the warning track in center field that scored Madi Lewis from second base to give the 'Dogs a 1-0 lead.
The Runnin' Bulldogs added another when Champion scored from third on an error by the right field – doubling the lead to 2-0.
Summer Darnell took a no-hitter into the fourth until Kelsey Churnak broke it up with a double into deep, left center field.
ETSU broke up the shutout later that inning, scoring on a bases loaded RBI single from Taylor Carter to cut the Gardner-Webb in half. The Buccaneers would tie it up on a sacrifice fly to center field that scored Nikki Grupp. The play advanced Carter to third. ETSU then took a 3-2 lead on an RBI double to deep right by Taylor Laughren that scored Carter.
The Runnin' Bulldogs answered back in the bottom of fourth after Thornton started the inning with a walk. Champion reached on an unsuccessful fielder's choice that allowed Thornton to advance to second, then Allie Barrick scored after a triple and an error that allowed her to race home. Barrick plated both Thornton and Champion on the play – with her run giving the 'Dogs a 5-3 lead.
ETSU rallied once again in the top of the sixth, loading the bases then cutting the lead to 5-4 on a bases loaded walk. The Bucs continued the surge by taking a 6-5 lead in that same inning.
Gardner-Webb surged back in front with a pair of runs in the bottom half of the sixth. Lewis roped an RBI double down the line in left to score Thornton from first – tying the score. Thornton reached with a leadoff single to set the stage. The 'Dogs took the lead back on the strength of Champion's hot bat, as she dropped in an RBI single to score Lewis for a 7-6 edge.
The Buccaneers had more in the tank, tying the game in the top of the seventh on an RBI single from Tiffany Laughren.
Gardner-Webb nearly had a walk off in the seventh, as Rachel Cumisky's long fly ball fell just short of the left field fence.
With runners beginning extra innings at second base, Gardner-Webb made a big defensive play in the top of the eighth – getting a double play that resulted in a play at the plate to flip the inning.
Cumiskey started the bottom half on second, then Thornton was plunked to put two runners on board. The pair advanced into scoring position on a passed ball, but Cumiskey was cut down at the plate for the first out of the inning. Champion delivered once again, however, delivering the game winning RBI with a hard shot to second base that wasn't handled in time.
Champion (3-for-4, 3 RBI, 2 runs) and Lewis (2-for-4, 2 runs) led a 7-hit attack for the Runnin' Bulldogs in the nightcap. Thornton (1-for-2, 3 runs) and Barrick (1-for-2, 2 RBI) also had hits for Gardner-Webb in a balanced performance.
Mackenzie Thompson (1-1) picked up the win in relief, hurling two innings and allowing one run on two hits. Summer Darnell took a no decision, pitching 6.0 innings and scattering nine hits. She allowed five runs in the outing.
ETSU had 10 hits in the game, with Carter (3-for-4) and Laughren (3-for-4) leading the way. The Bucs' Kelly Schmidt (0-1) took the loss in a relief appearance.
The Runnin' Bulldogs rapped out 13 hits and scored runs in all but one half inning at bat to beat Alabama A&M by a 7-3 score in the 2017 home opener Friday afternoon.
Gardner-Webb got on the board first when Kaylee Wacaster stole home as part of a delayed steal with Annamarie Warley that gave the 'Dogs a 1-0 lead in the first.
Annamarie Warley plated Megan Champion with an RBI infield single in the second for a 2-0 lead and Madi Lewis tripled home Callie Thornton in the third for a 3-0 advantage.
After Alabama A&M plated a pair in the top of the fourth, Gardner-Webb responded again, getting a sacrifice fly from Megan Gibbons to score Wacaster for a 4-2 lead. The 'Dogs pushed the lead to 5-2 when freshman Alia Booth ripped an RBI single into center to score Warley for a 5-2 advantage.
Booth raked an RBI double into deep center field in the sixth to drive home Gibbons for a 6-2 lead in the sixth, then Thornton added a run as she doubled home Booth for the final run of the game for GWU.
An RBI double from Ariel Smith in the top of the seventh provided the final margin.
Booth (3-for-4, 2B, 3 RBI), Warley (3-for-4, RBI), Wacaster (2-for-3, 2 runs) and Rachel Cumiskey (2-for-3) led Gardner-Webb's offensive output in the game.
Freshman Olivia Henson (1-0) picked up the win in her first collegiate start, hurling 4.0 innings and fanning three batters with only one earned run allowed. Sam Harrell picked up a 3.0 inning save, allowing just one run on four hits.
Alabama A&M collected nine hits in the game, with Kia Lang (2-for-4), Ariel Smith (2-for-3) and Eriel Lawson (2-for-4) leading that charge. Jada Jackson took the loss, allowing five runs (all earned) in 4.0 innings of work.
The busy weekend at Brinkley Softball Stadium will continue on Saturday, as Gardner-Webb battles North Carolina A&T at noon. The 'Dogs will then play later in the day in one of two semifinals matchups (2:00 or 4:00).