DUNCAN, S.C. – A valiant effort by the Converse (5-21) softball team came up just short in a pair of close losses to Mars Hill (14-5) on Thursday afternoon at Tyger River Park. The Valkyries dropped game one by the final of 1-0 before battling nine innings in the second game, eventually falling 5-3.
GAME ONE: CONVERSE 0, MARS HILL 1
After a scoreless first inning for both teams, Mars Hill threatened in the top of the second. Jordan Harris led the at-bat off with a double to right center, nut starting pitcher Hailey Spitler buckled down on the mound, retiring the next three batters to escape the jam.
The Lions had a golden opportunity once again in the third inning after loading the bases with two outs. However, Spitler came through with a big pitch to force a lineout by Hannah Smith to maintain the scoreless tie.
Converse looked poised to strike first in the bottom of the third. McKayla Davis led the frame off with a single through the right side before advancing to second on a sacrifice bunt by Moriah Gomez. However, a strikeout and groundout kept the Vals off the board.
The game remained tied at 0-0 until Mars Hill scratched a single run in the top of the seventh. With two outs, a defensive blunder cost the Valkyries the game's first run, sending the game into the bottom of the last inning with Converse needing at least one run. Converse went down in order in the seventh, dropping the heartbreaking 1-0 contest.
GAME TWO: CONVERSE 3, MARS HILL 5 (9 Innings)
The Valkyries put runners on second and third with two outs in the bottom of the second, but an inadvertent batted ball caused a groundout that ended the threat and kept the nightcap scoreless. Mars Hill took advantage of two errors on the Valkyries in the top of the third, plating one run to take the early lead.
However, Converse finally broke into the scoring column, tying the game at 1-all in the bottom of the third. Following an out, Spitler singled off the pitcher's glove before stealing second. Katelin Bradshaw came in as a pinch hitter and delivered a clutch hit to center, plating Spitler.
Mars Hill regained the lead in the top of the fourth. After loading the bases with no outs, Marissa Martin forced the next two batters to pop out to the infield, but Hannah Smith tallied an infield single to give MHU the 2-1 advantage.
The Vals loaded the bases in the bottom of the fifth, allowing Allison Plafcan to come through with a sacrifice fly to left field, scoring Martin, who singled through the left side earlier in the at-bat. Once again Mars Hill took the lead back in the top of the next inning. With two outs Ashley Evans connected on a solo homerun to left field to stake the Lions to the 3-2 advantage.
The bottom of the sixth mirrored the fifth as the Purple and Gold loaded the bases with no outs. After a strikeout, Martin was struck by a pitch, the Lions third hit batter of the frame, allowing Brooklyn McElrath to touch the plate and knot the game at 3-3 heading into the final frame.
Both teams went scoreless in the seventh, sending the game into extra innings. Mars Hill pushed across two runs in the top of the ninth, putting the pressure on Converse heading to the bottom of the frame. The Valkyries put a runner on third, but could not advance her any further, dropping a tough game two by the final of 5-3.
Converse will return to Conference Carolinas action on Saturday, March 16, hosting Barton College at Tyger River Park. The first game of that doubleheader is scheduled for 2 p.m.