Decatur, Ala. – The College of Coastal Georgia women's softball team knocked off Faulkner 3-1 Thursday afternoon in its opening game at the Southern States Athletic Conference tournament.
The win was the first in the conference tournament for the Mariners who were eliminated in two games each of the last two seasons.
"Our team was determined to get this first win and set up another possible showdown with Brenau tomorrow," said Coastal Georgia coach Mike Minick.
The victory did set up a fifth matchup this season with second-ranked Brenau, a 7-1 winner over Bethel in its tournament opener.
The Golden Tigers won a pair of one-run games against the Mariners last Friday to close out a perfect run through the conference schedule. Brenau also swept the Mariners at home in a controversy-filled doubleheader during the regular season.
The fourth-seeded Mariners (34-19) and top-seeded Tigers (48-5) will meet at 1 p.m. Friday. The winner advances to the 7 p.m. winner's bracket game to play for a spot in the tournament championship. The loser falls into the loser's bracket and will play in a 5 p.m. elimination game.
Against Faulkner (25-29) on Thursday, Paige Alt played the role of heroine for the Mariners. The freshman second-team all-conference player blasted a two-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the sixth to break a 1-1 deadlock. Olivia Husted reached on a walk to keep the inning alive for the Coastal Georgia cleanup hitter.
Alt was also the winning pitcher for the Mariners as she allowed just one unearned run and a single hit while going the distance for Coastal Georgia in the circle. Alt improved to 18-6 for the season with the win as she struck out three and walked two.
"I thought Paige showed tremendous poise," Minick said.
The Eagles, who split a pair of games last Saturday at home with the Mariners, scored the game's first run in the top of the fourth when their leadoff batter in the inning reached on an error and would come around to score.
Coastal Georgia would push its first run across the plate in the bottom of the inning while also benefitting from an error by the Eagles. Savannah Money, the team's leadoff batter, single into center to open the inning and would advance to second on a sacrifice bunt by Taylor Lee for the first out. Husted would then fly out to right field and Money tagged on the play. She would reach third and then score on a wild throw from the outfield to forge the 1-1 tie.
Neither team would score in the fifth and Alt would retire the Eagles on three consecutive groundouts in the top of the sixth before the Mariners came to bat in the bottom of the inning.
After Faulkner's Caitlin Perry recorded two quick outs to start the sixth, Husted worked for a walk as the third batter in the inning. That brought Alt to the plate and she drilled the first pitch she saw deep over the fence in left to give the Mariners their first lead of the afternoon. The homer was just the second this season for Alt who hit her first career home run in the second game of the season against Truett-McConnell on Feb. 4.
"I think the first-team all-conference snub might have given her extra motivation," Minick said.
In the seventh, Alt allowed a leadoff walk but she got the next three batters on groundouts to close out the win.
Perry absorbed the loss for the Eagles as she allowed just three hits in six innings. She struck out six and walked two.
Reilly Oliver, Money and Alt were the only Mariners to get a hit in the game.