ROME, Ga.—The race for the Southern Athletic Association regular season conference crown came down to the final day of the season as Birmingham-Southern and Berry faced off in a Sunday afternoon doubleheader, with Berry winning game two, 2-0, to clinch the regular season title. The squads split on the afternoon with the Panthers claiming a 4-3 game one victory.
The Panthers move to 23-18 on the season and 19-5 in the SAA. The Vikings are now 29-9 and 18-4 in the conference. Despite the game advantage in the win column for BSC, Berry is the regular season champion and top seed in next weekend's conference tournament by virtue of a higher winning percentage in conference games.
With the second seed in next weekend's 2014 Southern Athletic Association Softball Championship, BSC will open their quest for their second conference title in three years (after winning the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference championship in 2012) Friday afternoon with a 2 p.m. tilt against the seventh-seeded Sewanee Tigers, who BSC swept 4-0 earlier this season. The event will be hosted by Hendrix College and played at Warrior Softball Field in Conway, Ark.
BSC raced out to an early lead in game one as the Panthers used a pair of home runs in the top of the first to claim a 3-0 lead. Junior Taylor Bassett connected for the first home run of the inning and her third of the season. The shot to center also brought home junior Bethany Fronk after her single up the middle an at-bat earlier. Two batters later, a solo homer from freshman Torrie Garner, her sixth of the year, ended the scoring in the top of the first. The Panthers extended the lead to 4-0 in the top of the fifth when Fronk again came home to score the second of her game-high two runs.
With Fronk (13-11) in the circle the Panthers were cruising. Up by four heading to the bottom of the sixth, Fronk had only surrendered two hits and one walk, while striking out four. The Viking bats came alive, though, and Berry hung three runs in the bottom of the sixth to cut the Panther advantage to one. After a scoreless top of the seventh, Berry chased Fronk from the game with a runner on first and no outs in the bottom of the final frame. Freshman Taylor Harkins entered the game in relief to thwart the Berry comeback and pick up her first save of the season.
In game two, Harkins returned to the circle and gave up two runs in the bottom of the first inning. The freshman would settle down the rest of the way and yield no additional runs, allow only three more hits, and walk a single batter. Unfortunately, Berry starter Allison Coronado (10-3) threw a complete-game shutout to stifle the Panthers and help the Vikings pick up the 2-0 victory to claim the SAA regular season crown.