In what has been a rollercoaster season for the Braves, they came into the Mid-South Classic with an 8-6 record and left with a 12-6 record after going undefeated in the four games.
The Mid-South Classic was a two-day tournament including a doubleheader each day. The first day featured the Black and Gold against twenty-fifth ranked Carson-Newman Barton. Day two was against Converse and a rematch against Barton for the last game.
The first game of the Mid-South Classic had the Braves in an underdog matchup against the twenty-fifth ranked team in Division II. Carson-Newman came into the game against Pembroke with a five game winning streak and a 10-4 record.
UNCP wasted no time in making a statement against the Eagles. The very first inning they scored both runs that they would end up scoring the entire game. Taylor Gerhart hit an RBI double to left field and Alex Watkins played a little small ball by laying down a sacrifice bunt to score Jamie Johnson and make the first inning score 2-0 in favor of Pembroke.
That first inning would contain all of the scoring for the game until the seventh inning as Malerie Leviner held the Eagles to no runs through six. She would give up one run in the bottom of the seventh, but kept Carson-Newman at bay and kept the score at 2-1 to secure the upset victory.
Leviner’s record is 3-2 on the season after this one. The second game the Braves faced the Barton Bulldogs. Pembroke once again set the tone for the game, scoring the first three runs with one in the second inning and two in the third.
Breezy Yelton was on the mound for UNCP and she did what she has been doing all season. Yelton allowed zero runs through the first five innings. Her only hiccup was a three run homer that she allowed in the bottom of the sixth, but only two of those runs were earned.
Malerie Leviner came in the game in the bottom of the seventh to get the one out save and lock down the 4-3 victory. It was her first save of the season and the win for Breezy Yelton brought her record up to a fantastic 6-1.
Dominant pitching was once again a factor for the Braves as they won the third game of the series against Converse 1-0. Sophomore Raygan Larson was in the circle for this one, and she controlled the Converse bats from start to finish.
She pitched the complete game seven-inning shutout allowing only two hits and striking out seven. Her record is now 2-3 on the season. The one run of the game was scored in dramatic fashion.
The score was knotted up at 0-0 heading into the bottom of the seventh inning. There were two outs, runners on first and second. Junior center fielder Bailer Hoch stepped up to the plate. After taking the first pitch, Hoch uncorked on the second pitch and hit a single to left field scoring pinch runner Mary Sells from second base.
The 1-0 win would leave Pembroke one win away from sweeping the Mid-South Classic. The final game of the classic was a rematch from game two against Barton. In a lineup shuffle, Haleigh Epperson got the start in right field and hit leadoff for the Braves.
Epperson’s speed would be put on display throughout the game. She stole a base the first time she got on base and eventually would come around to score on a passed ball to put the Black and Gold up 3-1.
It’s a broken record for Braves’ softball this year, but pitching was once again a dominating presence. Malerie Leviner’s record was brought up to 4-2, after she pitched the whole seven innings giving up only two runs off of nine hits and striking out six.
Jamie Johnson has been nothing short of stellar this season. She knocked in two more RBIs and recorded two hits to lead the offense for Pembroke. Johnson leads the team in RBIs, hits, triples, and has only struck out one time this season.
After a 2-5 start, the Black and Gold now boast a 12-6 record and are riding a seven game win streak, thanks to a pair of dynamic freshmen. On the offensive side of things, Freshman outfielder Cara Davis has been a pleasant surprise mashing four home runs already this season and hitting a robust .410 with a .769 slugging percentage.
Pitching has been the calling card for the Braves during this streak. Freshman Yelton leads the bunch with a stellar 1.44 ERA. She also has four complete games with three of those being shutouts.
Someone who can’t be forgotten though is sophomore Leviner. She posts a 3.48 ERA and leads the team in innings pitched, games started, strikeouts, and saves.
With a young nucleus of up and coming freshmen and sophomores and veteran leadership from players like Toni Nelson and Jamie Johnson, this team is poised to make a run for a PBC title this year.