by Benny Benton
BANNER ELK, N.C. – Barton College pitcher Ashlyn Reagan came within one out of tossing a no-hitter on Saturday against Lees-McRae College, surrendering a single up the middle to pinch-hitter Alison Armstrong with two outs in the bottom of the seventh before finishing off a 3-0 shutout of the Bobcats.
Reagan's one-hit performance followed a four-hitter by sophomore Liz White in the opening game of the doubleheader that led the Lady Bulldogs to a 3-1 victory.
With the sweep, Barton moved over .500 at 17-16-1 overall and 6-5-1 in Conference Carolinas. The Bobcats fell to 8-33 overall and 3-9 in league play.
The standout pitching efforts followed similar performances at Elizabeth City State University on Thursday, when White recorded a one-hit shutout and Reagan posted a five-hitter with one run allowed.
White took her no-hit bid into the sixth on Thursday against the Lady Vikings, and that's where Reagan's nearly ended on Saturday against the Bobcats. With runners on first and second base due to walks, Lee-McRae freshman Taylor Billings hit a ball up the middle that seemed destined for the outfield. However, Barton shortstop Kendra Kassonie made a diving stop to knock the ball down, then rolled over to tag the bag and force out the runner at second to end the inning.
Reagan got a strikeout for the first out of the seventh, and third baseman Amber Weaver threw out the second batter, Jessica Smith, on a close play at first for the second out. However, on a day when LMC honored its seniors, one of them, Armstrong, made sure that the day would not be remembered for being on the wrong side of a no-hitter. The pinch-hitter took a 1-0 offering back up the middle, and this time Kassonie had no chance to stop it on its way to center field.
Unshaken by losing the no-hitter, Reagan struck out another senior, Lori Fulmer, to end the game and preserve her first shutout of the year.
A sophomore from Hampstead, N.C. Reagan walked four and struck out five in improving to 9-5 on the season. She has gone 9-2 in her last 11 decisions.
Reagan nearly lost the shutout in the first inning, even without giving up a hit. An error on a fly ball to right and a walk put two runners on base with just one out, but Reagan used a foul fly to left and a fielder's choice grounder to get out of the frame. She allowed just two more baserunners before the sixth inning, one on a walk and the other on a hit batsman.
Barton's offense gave her a lead to work with in the top of the third. Alex Baylis singled to third to lead off the frame, stole second and moved to third on Taylor Bowden's sacrifice bunt before scoring on an RBI single to third base by Sydney Speight.
The Lady Bulldogs were the beneficiaries of two unearned runs in the fifth inning. A Lees-McRae error following a Crystal Britton single allowed one run in and set the stage for a two-out RBI single to short by Megan Kelly.
Barton had just five hits off LMC's Celeste Sheppard (4-14), who did not walk a batter and struck out one in a hard-luck loss.
In the opener, the Lady Bulldogs had seven hits off two Lees-McRae pitchers, nearly half of them collected by Kelly, who was 3-for-4 in the contest with two RBI.
The freshman outfielder led off the game with a home run to center field, her third of the season, to immediately put Barton in front, 1-0.
The Lady Bulldogs took advantage of two LMC errors in the third inning to score a run on Weaver's RBI double. Barton added a third run in the fourth inning on Kelly's second hit of the contest, a single down the left field line that scored Baylis, who had led off the frame with a bunt single and stolen second.
White (4-9), who has now won three of her last four decisions, gave up a walk and an RBI double to Sadie Lagle in the bottom of the first that tied the game at 1-all, and was threatened again in the bottom of the third when a walk and a Barton error put two runners on with no one out. However, the sophomore from Windsor, N.C., retired three straight batters in that inning and 10 of the next 11.
Lees-McRae did not get a runner to scoring position after the third inning against White, who walked two and struck out seven.
Hollie Crickenberger (0-2), the first of two pitchers for the Bobcats, suffered the loss, giving up three hits and one earned run in three innings of work.
In addition to Kelly's three hits, Barton received two from Baylis and one each from Weaver and Betsy Braswell.
Barton continues its road trip on Sunday with a 1 p.m. doubleheader at King University.