ROME, Ga.—Ford Field was the stage Saturday afternoon for a conference faceoff with the regular season softball crown on the line. Separated by one game in the win column, the Birmingham-Southern Panthers and Berry Vikings split the opening doubleheader, with the Panthers taking game one 4-0 and the Vikings winning game two 2-1.
The Panthers are now 21-15 overall with a 18-4 Southern Athletic Association mark, while Berry is 28-8 on the season and 17-3 in conference play.
In game one, BSC rode the arm and bat of junior Bethany Fronk, who went 3-4 from the plate, to win the series opener. The right-hander improved her record in the circle to 12-10 as she threw a complete-game gem to shut out the Vikings. She allowed six hits, walked none, and struck out eight.
The Panthers took control of the game offensively in the second when a two-out double from junior Joanna Jernigan scored juniors Hannah Harris and Taylor Bassett, both of whom reached on singles. Jernigan did not have to wait long to come home as the next batter, sophomore Maddie Ridgway, brought her across the plate with a single. The 3-0 advantage held for the Panthers until the top of the sixth when BSC tacked on another run. A sac fly from Freshman Alex Skene scored freshman Ashley Leonard, who was pinch running for Bassett after the junior singled to open the inning.
Game two featured a pitcher's duel between Panther freshman starter Taylor Harkins (9-5) and Viking starter Allison Coronado. Berry struck the opening blow with a run in the first. BSC would answer in the top of the fifth to even the game at one run apiece. With Jernigan on third a fielder's choice that put Fronk on first also plated Jernigan. Berry took game two with a walk-off double to win 2-1.
The regular season title will be decided tomorrow with a doubleheader showdown starting at 1 p.m. ET at Ford Field. The Panthers must win both games to clinch the title; a split or two losses gives the crown to the Vikings.