HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Tuesday turned out to be a tough day for William Carey University softball.
The Lady Crusaders, who won their opening game in Monday's opening round of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics' 2018 softball championship, were knocked out of the four-team, double-elimination tournament a day later.
Second-seeded WCU (39-15) fell to top-seeded Indiana Wesleyan University (56-9) in Tuesday's first game, 5-1, and then saw its season come to an end a few hours later when it lost 4-2 to third-seeded Truett McConnell University in an elimination game.
Truett McConnell (42-16), which lost to Carey in the opening round, stayed alive with a 4-3 victory in Tuesday's first elimination-bracket game, nudging aside fourth-seeded Talladega College (18-22).
About 45 minutes later, the Lady Bears got a measure of revenge, building a three-run cushion with two runs in the top of the seventh to hold off the Lady Crusaders.
Truett McConnell will square off with unbeaten Indiana Wesleyan at 11 a.m. Wednesday in the championship round. The Lady Bears would have to win twice to claim the tourney crown and move on to the NCAA World Series.
"We just couldn't get off the ropes," Carey coach Craig Fletcher said. "This time of year, you have to score some runs, and we just didn't do it.
"A lot of things have to go right for you, maybe a little bit of luck, but you definitely have to hit the ball. We pitched well enough, but we made a couple of bad plays."
Fletcher was referring to the game with Truett, but could have been talking about Carey's day as a whole.
The Lady Crusaders managed just nine hits, with only one going for extra bases. Of the nine runs allowed by Carey pitching, four were unearned thanks to a trio of errors committed during the day.
"I commend them," Fletcher said of the Lady Bears. "They had a long day. Get beat (Monday), come back and win in a tough game (against Talladega), and then win this one."
In Tuesday's first game, Indiana Wesleyan took a 1-0 lead against Carey on Kristen Exposito's double into the left-center field gap.
That was all the run support that Carlie Weaver (24-4) would require. Weaver had shut down the Lady Crusaders on two hits over six shutout innings before Carey broke through in the seventh.
Caitlyn Castille led off with a single and scored on Macy Monk's two-out triple to the wall in left-center field. But Weaver got a popup in foul territory to wrap up the win.
Weaver allowed four hits, walking four and striking out six in seven innings.
Lindsey Johnson (15-5) took the loss, allowing three runs (two earned) on six hits over 4 1/3 innings. She walked one and struck out five. Hannah Monk finished out the game for Carey, allowing two unearned runs on two hits in 2 2/3 innings. She walked one and struck out six.
Carey hurt itself with two errors, making three of Indiana Wesleyan's runs unearned.
Monk had twp of Carey's hits with a single and triple. Castille and Mary Blair Odom each had single.
Kira Madi led the Wildcats' eight-hit attack with three singles.
In the second game, the teams were knotted 1-1 after an inning before Truett McConnell nicked Monk for a run in the fourth to take a 2-1 lead and then two more in the top of the seventh to give Lady Bears additional breathing room.
As in the first game, Carey rallied in its final at-bat. Maranda Busby led off the inning by beating out a nubbed grounder down the first-base line for a single and then sped to third base when the ball was thrown down the line.
An out later, Busby came home on a grounder by Harli Crow to cut the deficit to two runs, but Truett starting pitcher Bethany Hyde got a liner to shortstop to end the game.
Hyde (10-8) allowed two runs (one earned) on five hits over seven innings. She walked three and struck out four.
Moak (20-9), in her final appearance as a Lady Crusader, allowed four runs (two earned) on five hits over seven innings. She walked two and struck out four.
Monk, Castille, Busby, Anna Kennedy and Brianna Harding each had a single against Truett McConnell.
"I'm proud of them," Fletcher said. "They have nothing to hang their heads about. Circumstances didn't turn out as we'd like, but life treats us that way sometimes."
Carey wrapped up a season that saw it play host to an NAIA postseason tourney for the fourth time in five years and win the program's second Southern States Athletic Conference title when it won the SAAC postseason tournament.
"It's tough," Fletcher said. "But there was only one conference championship (season) on that wall (in the right-field corner), and now there's going to be two. Very proud of them."