Carnes’ arm and Patriot homers give FMU sweep

FLORENCE, SC – Francis Marion University senior right-hander Katie Carnes picked up a pair of wins while backed by a trio of home runs and a game-ending defensive gem as the Patriots swept Tuesday's (April 21) Peach Belt Conference softball doubleheader with USC Aiken.  FMU won the opener 4-1 behind homers from junior catcher Shannan Lopez and freshman first baseman Madison Lowe-Gardner and then claimed the nightcap 3-2 as a relay throw nabbed a USCA runner at third base for the game's final out.

Francis Marion ends the regular season 25-21 overall and 11-13 in the Peach Belt.  The Patriots finish in a three-way tie for sixth place and, by way of tiebreakers, will be the seventh seed in the PBC Tournament this weekend in Milledgeville, Ga.  FMU will face second-seeded and host Georgia College on Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. on the first day of the single-elimination tournament.

USCA (22-16, 11-13) will be the eighth seed in the tournament.

In Tuesday's opener, Carnes (11-5) tossed a four-hitter with a complete-game effort.  She struck out four and walked only two.  USCA catcher Andrea Daring spoiled her shutout with a one-out solo homer to left centerfield in the top of the seventh.

The Patriots scored all their runs over the first three innings.  Lopez launched an opposite field solo home run in the bottom of the first.  Lowe-Gardner ripped a two-run shot to left center in the bottom of the second to increase the FMU advantage to 3-0, and Lopez hit her second solo long ball, this one to left center, in the last of the third.  Lopez leads the Patriots with seven homers and owns a seven-game hitting streak.

Pacer righty Taylor Morgan (9-9) absorbed the game-one loss despite allowing only five hits and fanning four.  Daring led USCA at the plate with a 2-for-3 effort.

In the second game, USCA broke a scoreless tie on left fielder Victoria Burkett's bases-loaded walk in the top of the fifth.  Carnes entered the game in that half-inning in relief of FMU freshman starter Kaitlin Munda.  The Pacers had loaded the bases, but the Pageland native minimized the damage and allowed only the one run to score. One of the outs came a sparkling defensive play by Patriot senior third baseman Shelby Mathews and Lopez.  On a slow dribbler to third, Mathews fielded the ball and scoop it (with her glove) to Lopez, who held her toe on home plate for the force out.

In the bottom of the fifth, FMU answered back with a trio of runs – all with two outs. Sophomore center fielder Mikala Barnhart doubled home Sharee Blomquist and Briana Barzola with a liner down the left field line.  Lopez the plated Barnhart with a double to almost the identical spot.

Trailing 3-1 with two outs in the seventh and with a runner on first, USCA shortstop Ashley Metts lifted a long double that fell at the base of the right centerfield fence.  Sydney Murphy scored the Pacers' second run on the play, but Metts was thrown out at third to end the game on a relay throw from Barnhart to second baseman Taylor (TJ) Fain to Mathews at third.

Carnes pitched three innings to earn her fourth win in the season's final two conference twinbills.  She fanned four, walked one, and allowed three hits in game two.  Munda surrendered just one run in four innings, while striking out three, walking only one, and allowing just two singles.

USCA senior right-hander Danielle Payne (13-7) was tagged with the loss on her return to FMU.  She pitched for the Patriots during the 2013 season. On Tuesday, Payne surrendered the three runs on four hits with six strikeouts.

At the plate, Carnes walked once in game two to push her season total to 26, equaling the third-highest total in Patriot history.  Carnes, Fain, Mathews and utility player Chessie Miller all made their final home appearance in the doubleheader sweep.

Francis Marion Univ. 4, USC Aiken 1 (Apr 21, 2015 at Florence, SC) (Game 1)
USC Aiken...........    000 000 1 -  1  4  0      (22-15, 11-12 PBC)
Francis Marion Univ. 121 000 X -  4  5  0      (24-21, 10-13 PBC)
Pitchers: USC Aiken - Taylor Morgan and Andrea Daring. Francis Marion Univ. - Katie Carnes and
Shannan Lopez.
Win-Katie Carnes(10-5)  Loss-Taylor Morgan(9-9)  T-1:29  A-0
HR USCA - Andrea Daring (6).
HR FMU_SB - Shannan Lopez 2 (7); Madison Lowe-Gardner (3).
Weather: Sunny, 74, Winds W @ 10 mph


Francis Marion Univ. 3, USC Aiken 2 (Apr 21, 2015 at Florence, SC) (Game 2)
USC Aiken...........    000 010 1 -  2  5  0      (22-16, 11-13 PBC)
Francis Marion Univ. 000 030 X -  3  4  2      (25-21, 11-13 PBC)
Pitchers: USC Aiken - Danielle Payne and Ericka David. Francis Marion Univ. - Kaitlin Munda;
Katie Carnes(5) and Shannan Lopez.
Win-Katie Carnes(11-5)  Loss-Danielle Payne(13-7)  T-1:51  A-110
Weather: Clear, 75, Wind W @ 13 mph
Munda faced 3 batters in the 5th.