Hephzibah, Ga. – The Claflin University softball team scored five runs in the final two innings en route to capturing the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) title, Saturday (May 6) at Diamond Lakes Regional Park in Hephzibah, Ga. The Lady Panthers won four straight games in the tournament en route to capturing the school's first-ever SIAC softball title.
With the championship, Claflin (33-18), receives the SIAC automatic berth into the 2017 NCAA Division II Softball Regionals scheduled for May 11-13. Pairings for the tournament will be announced via the NCAA.com website on Monday, May 8 at 10 a.m.
Miles finished the season with an 18-28 record.
"It's been a long year and we've worked hard to get to this point," said interim head coach Marty Kinard, who was named the Tournament Outstanding Coach. "I can't say enough about the job Tiaria Norman did for us especially coming off the struggle against West Georgia in our last doubleheader, she did great for us this weekend."
Norman, the tournament's Most Valuable Player and All-Tournament Selectee, was the winning pitcher, going all six innings with seven strikeouts.
Sophomore Shaquailla German, a member of the All-Tournament Team, went 3-for-4 with a run and a RBI to lead Claflin.
Senior Chelsea Hall, also a member of the All-Tournament Team, finished the game with two hits, both triples, five RBIs and a run.
"The seniors took on a leadership role midway thru the season and have lead by example on and off the field since," Kinard said. "Senior Kayla Sanderson was really big for us, as she doesn't normally hit but due to injury to one our starting hitters she was forced to hit and came up big."
Sanderson finished the game with a double, a run and three RBIs.
Miles was led by Kendruena McPhearson with two hits with two runs and a stolen base.
Jakari Suggs was the losing pitcher for the Golden Bears.
Miles placed its first two batter on the pads via a walk and bunt single and both runners scored by virtue of throwing error by Claflin first baseman.
Miles scored two additional runs to take a 4-0 advantage into the bottom of the first inning.
Claflin did not hang their heads. With two outs in the bottom of the first, Chelise Morman stepped to the plate and hit a homerun to right centerfield in the bottom of the first to open the scoring for the Lady Panthers.
The Lady Panthers offense began to click on all cylinders in the bottom of the second. German led off the inning with a hit to third base and Claflin placed its first four runners on the pads before an out was recorded.
The Lady Panthers put up five runs off two hits and three Miles errors to take the 5-4 lead.
The Golden Bears got one of the runs back in the top of the third as McPhearson scored off a RBI single by Kathryne Lambert.
Claflin remained poised heading into the next inning. With two outs, the Lady Panthers drew two walks which put them in scoring position. Senior Kayla Sanderson hit a two-run double down the leftfield line to push Claflin ahead by three, 8-5 after three complete.
"When we went down early I told the ladies, we've been here before and to remember we still have a lot of game to play," said Kinard. "We got the nerves are out of the way so now we are ready to play."
Claflin continued to put the pressure on. The Lady Panthers tacked on four runs in the bottom of the fifth to take a commanding 12-5 advantage.
After reaching base on a two-out double in the bottom of the sixth, Kayla Cato scored the winning run off an obstruction called on Miles third base. German was credited with an RBI single on the play.
The Lady Panthers defense stayed solid over the final three innings of the contest holding the Golden Bears scoreless.http://athletics.claflin.edu/news/2017/5/6/claflin-claims-2017-siac-softball-title.aspx?path=softball