HARROGATE, Tenn. – Abby Child continued her offensive assault and Katelynn Howser dazzled in six innings on the mound as the second-seeded Anderson Trojans capped their unblemished tournament run by capturing a 5-0 win over the third-seeded Wingate Bulldogs in the title game of the 2014 Food Lion South Atlantic Conference Softball Championship on Sunday at Dorothy Neely Field.
By virtue of claiming the SAC Championship, Anderson (42-10) earns the league's automatic berth to the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional, while Wingate (36-18) will seek an at-large selection.
Both the Trojans and Bulldogs used victories over the Catawba Indians on Saturday to set up Sunday's championship clash, as Anderson's Abby Child belted a two-run, walk-off home run in the bottom of the seventh against the Indians, while the Bulldogs nabbed an 8-0 win over the shell-shocked Indians just over an hour later. Wingate played its way out of the loser's bracket after dropping a 6-3 decision to these very same Trojans on Friday afternoon.
While Wingate entered Sunday's affair leading the SAC tournament field in ERA with a 1.53 mark in 32 innings pitched, the Trojans boasted six of the eight runs charged against the Bulldog staff in tournament play. Anderson nearly repeated that effort on Sunday, collecting five runs with at least one score in the second, third and fourth frames.
Anderson senior Abby Child went 2-for-3 with three RBI and a walk, finishing off a sensational all-around performance for the shortstop. Child posted a gaudy .583 average with seven hits, eight RBI and three homers in 12 official at-bats. Jessica Neidigh added a pair of hits with two runs in Sunday's title bout.
Courtney Czentnar slashed a leadoff double down the left-field line and Rebecca Martin was hit on the ankle by a 1-2 pitch to put the Trojans in business in the bottom of the second. Catcher Laura Jansky bunted the runners into scoring position for Bri Cason. Cason ripped a liner directly at Wingate shortstop Alexis Burrell, who snagged it for the second out of the inning. On the catch, Martin was left hanging off of second base, but Burrell's throw sailed into right field to score Czentnar from third.
Anderson went right back to work in the bottom of the third as Neidigh singled and Molly Child doubled to put a pair of runners on with no outs. A gutsy, 11-pitch at-bat for Abby Child resulted in a scorched two-run, two-bagger off of the bottom of the wall in left-center. Child fouled off five of the last six pitches she saw from All-SAC First Team selection Stacey Houser before narrowly missing her fourth home run of the tournament, which would have broken the SAC career record for bombs.
The Trojans added a crooked number to the scoreboard again in the bottom of the fourth as Charlotte Sieber was plunked by a pitch and Neidigh snuck a double into the gap in left-center. Molly Child bounced a grounder to second baseman Mellena Helms in the next at-bat, and Helms fielded it cleanly, but Sieber avoided the tag at home with a heads up slide. Abby Child crested the lead to 5-0 with an RBI single just past the outstretched hand of Helms.
While all that was happening for the Trojans at the plate, Anderson starter Katelyn Howser threw up six-straight zeroes on the scoreboard, finishing her stellar outing without allowing a hit to the final 17 batters she faced. Howser picked up her third win of the SAC Championship, surrendering only two hits with two strikeouts and two walks in six innings before giving way to Lauren Rudesheim in the final frame. Rudesheim worked around a leadoff single to put Wingate away without a run.
Kayla Saliga went 2-for-2 for the Bulldogs, while Mellena Helms was 1-for-3, accounted for the only three hits charged against either Howser or Rudesheim. Wingate starter Stacey Houser was handed the loss after allowing six hits and five runs (four earned) with five strikeouts in four innings pitched. Taylor Bates stepped in for two innings of relief, and she did not allow a hit with two strikeouts during that stretch.