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ETSU Downs Furman In SoCon Tourney Opener, 4-1

Casey Bigham
Casey Bigham

Greensboro, N.C. -- No. 6 seed ETSU used a pair of home runs and a strong performance in the circle from Madison Ogle to down No. 3 seed Furman, 4-1, in the opening round of the 2018 Southern Conference Softball Championship on Wednesday afternoon at UNCG Softball Stadium.

With the victory, ETSU (17-25) advances to face Mercer at 3 p.m. on Thursday, while Furman (38-14) will try to avoid elimination in a 10 a.m. contest versus No. 7 seed Western Carolina.

Nikki Grupp put the Bucs in front in the top of the first by belting a two-out pitch over the left field fence to open the scoring. In the bottom of the frame, Lauren Duggar reached on a leadoff single, but was caught stealing and Lindsey Bert drew a walk only to be stranded.

After Furman loaded the bases with nobody out and failed to score in the bottom of the second inning and left two more runners on base in the third, ETSU extended its lead in the top of the fourth. Vanessa Elliott doubled with one out and moved to third base when Tiffany Laughren reached on a fielder's choice. Kelsey Smith followed with a three-run clout to left-center to up the margin to 4-0.

Sophomore Casey Bigham got the Paladins on the board in the bottom of the fifth by fouling off four two-strike pitches before hammering a solo shot over the center field fence for her second home run of the season.

Ogle, who improved to 11-13 in the circle, allowed just one more hit the rest of the way to earn the victory. She fanned six batters and allowed just five hits and four walks over seven innings.

Bert (25-9) took the loss for the Paladins allowing four runs on six hits in a complete-game effort. The left-hander struck out nine batters and did not allow a walk.

For the game, Furman stranded nine runners on base and went 0-for-8 at the plate with runners in scoring position.

All games in the SoCon Softball Championship will be streamed on the SoCon Digital Network with the exception of the championship contest on Saturday afternoon, which will air on ESPN+.