No. 4 Berry bests softball in NCAA opener

Lynchburg softball players line up for introductions before an NCAA Tournament game.

Atlanta, Ga. -- The Lynchburg College softball team couldn't get by No. 4-ranked Berry in Friday's opener of the Atlanta Regional of the NCAA Division III softball tournament, falling 9-1 in 5 innings on Emory University's Cooper Field.

Senior center fielder Skylar Dickens (Virginia Beach, Va.) and freshman right fielder Jordyne Vance (Lynchburg, Va.) collected Lynchburg's two hits. Dickins drove in the Hornets' run.

Berry's Kassie Howard led the way for the Vikings with four no-hit innings in the circle, striking out five. Vikings right fielder Brooke Whittemore went 2-for-3 with four RBI.

Lynchburg got a runner aboard in the first inning thanks to a two-out walk by junior third baseman Taylor Mabry (Bassett, Va.), but the Hornets rallied no further as Howard escaped the inning with two popouts and a strikeout.

The Vikings wasted no time in the first, jumping on freshman pitcher Kayley Cox (Yorktown, Va.) with back-to-back singles to start the game. After a walk, Berry's Elisabeth Federici singled home the game's first run, and Lynchburg went to the bullpen without recording an out.

Sophomore right-hander Alex Cisar (Sykesville, Md.) got the next Vikings hitter to fly out for a sacrifice fly, but Whittemore followed that with a three-run home run that made it 5-0 in favor of the fourth-ranked team in the country.

Berry added another run in the second on Federici's RBI double and two more the following inning when Kylie Aiken knocked a two-run double that made it 8-0.

The Vikings' second-inning rally could have been worse if not for a great throw by junior catcher Brittany Coffey (Manassas, Va.) that nabbed a would-be base-stealer at third, and junior right-hander Taylor Belknap (Arden, N.C.) entered in relief to get the final out of the inning.

Berry added another run in the bottom of the fourth.

The Hornets offense got going in the top of the fifth when sophomore designated player Sarah Commons (Glen Allen, Va.) reached on a dropped third strike with one out. Commons advanced to second on a wild pitch from Berry reliever Meredith Holland, and Lynchburg got its third baserunner of the day on a two-out walk by Coffey.

Lynchburg broke up the no-hit bid a batter later when Vance singled through the left side, loading the bases. Dickens followed that with an infield single that scored Commons to do away with the shutout, but that's all the offense the Hornets could muster as the game ended per the 5-inning run rule.

Cox took the loss in the circle, falling to 5-4 this season, while Howard earned her 23rd win of the season for the Vikings.

Lynchburg (30-13) is playing in the NCAA tournament for the sixth time in program history and the first time since the 2014 season. The Hornets will play in loser-out action on Saturday, May 12 against the loser of the ongoing game between Emory U., and Maryville.