Softball team falls in game against Lenoir-Rhyne

Armand Broady, Sports Writer

Clear skies, sunshine and supportive fans were not enough for the Francis Marion University softball team on Sunday, Feb. 13, as FMU fell to the 11th-ranked Lenoir-Rhyne University Bears 5-2 in game one of their doubleheader.

The Bears scored once in the top of the first inning, thanks to an RBI double. The Patriots, however, answered that first inning run when senior shortstop and third baseman Jessica Hogan tripled and scored on an RBI single by junior first baseman Megann Sallinger.

Lenoir-Rhyne roared back in the third inning to put three runs on the board, following a big RBI hit by junior first baseman Brittany Davidson off starting FMU pitcher junior Kayla Ellingsen.

Although the Patriots fell short in this game, faithful fans and followers of the Patriots softball team have been very excited about the talent on the FMU team – this can definitely be said for former FMU softball player Monica Wofford.

“There’s no reason they (FMU) shouldn’t make it to Regionals again,” Wofford said.

Wofford, who has been following the Patriots softball team since she graduated in 2008, also acknowledged the unity of this year’s FMU team.

“I think there’s a sense of togetherness as a team,” Wofford said. “People are working for each other.”

Ross Ferguson, father of sophomore center and outfielder Olivia Ferguson, shared the sentiment of Wofford.

“There’s tremendous chemistry on this team,” Ferguson said. “And they’ll continue to get better as the season progresses.”

Ferguson drove 10 hours round trip from Roanoke, VA to see Olivia play, and he believes there is no reason why this year’s FMU team can’t do some great things in the Peach Belt Conference.

In game one against Lenoir-Rhyne, the Patriots had many opportunities to score runs but failed to bring runners across home plate.

FMU left eight runners on base and could not capitalize on the five walks thrown by Lenoir-Rhyne pitching.

Clutch hitting made the difference in the game, as both Lenoir-Rhyne junior Sarah Atkins and third baseman Haily Jarman had two hits each out of the 11 amassed by the Bears.

Meanwhile, the Patriots mustered six hits of their own, but no Patriot hitter had more than one hit. This inability to drive in runs with runners in scoring position was frustrating for Head Coach Stacey Vallee and her assistants Amanda Player and Lee Negrelli.

“They (Lenoir-Rhyne) hit the ball, and we had many opportunities,” Coach Vallee said. “We need nine hitters to hit instead of four.”

A disappointed Vallee also mentioned that her team’s pitching needed to be worked on.

The loss was the first of the season for Francis Marion University, and it was the first for starting pitcher Kayla Ellingsen.

For the Bears, junior pitcher Dawon Millwood came away with the victory, her second on the season. Freshman pitcher Julie Wakefield entered the game late to pick up her first save of her career with the nationally-ranked Bears.

The Patriots, however,  ended up coming back in game two of the doubleheader and defeating the Bears, 7-4.