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Paladins Eliminate Chattanooga In Thursday SoCon Softball Nightcap, 9-1

Emma Ogburn
Emma Ogburn

Greensboro, N.C. -- Seniors Candace Johnson and Emma Ogburn belted back-to-back home runs as part of a five-run second inning as Furman rolled to a 9-1, five-inning victory over Chattanooga in an elimination contest on Thursday evening at the Southern Conference Softball Championship in Greensboro, N.C.

The victory improved the Furman to 40-14 on the season, gave the Paladins their first 40-win season since 1993 and advanced head coach Wally King's squad into a 3 p.m. contest on Friday against either Mercer or Samford at UNCG Softball Stadium. The loser will be eliminated with the winner advancing to play at 5:30 p.m. on Friday. 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+.

After rain, lightning and an extra inning contest between Mercer and ETSU delayed the start of Thursday's game by more than three hours, Furman jumped on top in the bottom of the first on a sacrifice fly from AnnaRose Borrelli. In the top of the second, Candace Johnson led off the frame with an opposite field shot to left field to up the margin to 2-0.

Chattanooga brought Celie Hudson out of the bullpen to relieve Allison Swinford, but Ogburn greeted the freshman with a line drive homer to left field to extend the lead to 3-0. A hit batter, bunt single and sacrifice bunt set the table again for the Paladins and Marissa Guimbarda delivered with a two-out, two-run double to right field. Borrelli followed with a base hit to center field to hand Furman a 6-0 advantage after two innings.

Caroline Cash singled, stole second base, stole third base and raced home on an error by the Mocs' third baseman to add a run in the third inning. Chattanooga got on the board with a single run in the fourth, but Furman ended the game in the fifth as Casey Bigham lined an RBI single to left field to score Cash and Lauren Duggar swiped home on a double steal to force the eight-run mercy rule.

Starter Lindsey Bert (27-9) earned her school-record 27th win in the circle by blanking the Mocs for three innings before junior Emily DeMonte pitched the final two frames. Bert fanned four batters in three hitless innings, while DeMonte surrendered just one run in relief.

Cash went 2-for-2 with two stolen bases and three runs for the Paladins, while Bigham recorded an RBI single and two walks to reach base in each of her three trips to the plate.

Swinford (9-13) absorbed the loss for Chattanooga (26-30) after giving up two runs on one hit in an inning-plus of work.