UNCG (9-11, 0-0 SoCon) vs. College of Charleston (17-8, 1-2 SoCon), March 19-20, UNCG Softball Stadium
Video: Spartan All Access (Saturday only)
• UNCG returns to action after a nine-day break when it hosts College of Charleston to open Southern Conference play this weekend. The teams will play a doubleheader Saturday followed by a single game Sunday, with 1 p.m. starts both days.
• The Spartans split with Charlotte on March 9 to open doubleheader play, taking a 3-2 walk-off win in game one before falling 7-2 in game two. Senior Kristen Gabel knocked in all three runs for UNCG in game one, with a two-run double in the fifth and a perfectly placed squeeze bunt in the bottom of the seventh. Sophomore Heather Robb hit her first home run of the season in game two.
• UNCG has alternated wins and losses over its last six contests, while College of Charleston has won 11 of its last 14 but dropped two of three to Elon last weekend to open SoCon play. The Spartans are the last team to open league play after the other eight squads were in action last week.
• The Spartans swept a pair of games from CofC last season, winning both ends of a doubleheader on March 21 before the following day's game was rained out. UNCG took a wild, 11-7 game in 11 innings in game one, then capped the sweep with a 5-1 win in game two.
• Game one last season saw the Spartans score three runs in the top of the seventh to take a 5-2 lead, but CofC tied it with three in the bottom half to force extras. Both teams added single runs in the 10th before UNCG plated five in the top of the 11th. The Cougars got a run back in the bottom half but couldn't rally for the win. Kaitlin Merkt was 4-for-6 with two doubles and three RBI in the game, while Laura Olenderski was 3-for-3. In game two, UNCG jumped on CofC for five first-inning runs and never looked back. Merkt had a two-run homer in the frame. Pitcher Cory Mattson picked up a win and a save on the day.
• For the season, Merkt is leading the team with a .371 average, three home runs and 16 RBI. Alex Emeterio is second with a .356 average and 11 RBI, while freshman catcher Toni MacReynolds is hitting .700 over her last three games (7-for-10) to boost her season average to .350. Jordan Jewett is hitting .341 and is third in the SoCon with a .472 on-base percentage. Katelyn Bedwell is at .313 and Aisha Figueroa is hitting .311 and is a perfect 7-for-7 in stolen base attempts.
• With six regulars hitting over .300, UNCG is third in the SoCon with a team .287 batting average.
• UNCG leads the series with College of Charleston, 22-21, and has won the last three after a stretch of five straight Cougar wins.
• The Cougars have the most wins in the SoCon so far this year at 17-8 but lost last weekend's series to defending SoCon tournament champion Elon.
• CofC is blowing away the rest of the league in terms of pitching, as the Cougars lead the SoCon by a wide margin with a 1.71 ERA. Western Carolina is a distant second at 2.58. CofC's pitchers also have a league-best 155 strikeouts so far.
• The Cougars are also the best fielding team in the league with a .971 fielding percentage and just 22 errors in 25 games.
• The underclassmen are carrying the load for the Cougars this season. Freshman Carly Corthell leads the SoCon in hits (33) and is third in the league with a .407 batting average through 25 games, while classmate Jen Rosene is 4-0 with a SoCon-best 0.44 ERA. Rosene's ERA is more than a run better than second-place Kandice Irwin of Chattanooga, who owns a 1.46 mark. Stephanie Saylors, a sophomore, is 6-5 with a 2.30 ERA (sixth-best in the SoCon) and a league-best 75 strikeouts.
• Junior Katie Forbes is the only other Cougar hitting over .300, as she boasts a .352 mark with a SoCon-best seven doubles as well as two home runs and 11 RBI, both tied for team highs. Amanda Lonergan and Lizzy Vaughn also have 11 RBI, while Katie Pesature has two home runs.
• Senior Alexa Datko is third in the SoCon in ERA with a 1.67 mark and her seven wins (7-3) are second-most in the league.
• Against Elon last weekend, the Phoenix took a 4-0 win in game one before CofC rebounded with a 1-0 win in game two. The Cougars stranded 11 runners in the opener, while Saylors pitched the complete game shutout in game two. The Phoenix took the rubber match 5-2 the following day.
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