The Brenau University softball team came up just short in its quest for a 2018 Appalachian Athletic Conference championship, falling to Truett-McConnell University 4-3 in extra innings in the championship game Sunday in Kingsport, Tenn.
After going undefeated through the first three rounds of the tournament, the Golden Tigers sat in prime position as the top-seeded Bears had to win games against both Montreat and Reinhardt in the loser’s bracket to earn a rematch with Brenau in the championship game.
In Game 1, the Golden Tigers scored first as Autumn Conaway singled home Faith Grooms for a 1-0 lead. However, the Bears scored two runs in the fifth and six runs to win the opener 8-1 and force a winner-take-all second game.
In the finale, both teams scored runs in the first inning for a 1-1 score. The score stayed tied until the top of the fourth inning as Brenau’s Shelton Kendrix hit a sacrifice fly to score Lauren Sanders to take a 2-1 lead. The Golden Tigers added a run in the top of the sixth as Kelsey Payne singled to score Faith Grooms to make the score 3-1.
Brenau held the lead until the bottom of the seventh inning, when the Bears scored two runs off starter Caroline Mitchell to send the game into extra innings.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Bears had runners on the corners with two outs when Reba Jones beat out an infield single to score the winning run to give Truett-McConnell the 4-3 win and conference championship.
Three Golden Tigers were named to the All-Tournament team as Faith Grooms, Kelsey Payne and Kaleigh Sullivan were honored for their performances. Grooms and Payne combined for 17 hits during the five-game tournament, while Sullivan allowed only four runs in 25 2/3 innings pitched.
Brenau (28-20) will next compete at the 2018 NAIA Softball National Championships to be held from May 14-16. The Golden Tigers received an automatic bid for reaching the AAC tournament finals. The team will find out its draw after the NAIA National Championship selection show on May 8.