MONTGOMERY, Ala. ---- Sophomore Cassie Daniels threw her first career no-hitter this afternoon, leading the sixth-ranked Auburn Montgomery softball team to a split with ninth-ranked Belhaven on Senior Day.
The Warhawks (35-6, 13-5 SSAC) took the opener by a 2-0 score before falling to the Blazers (27-9, 13-7 SSAC) 5-3 in Game 2. Each team capitalized on errors, with AUM plating two unearned runs in the sixth inning of Game 1, while Belhaven went in front on a pair of miscues in the fifth inning of the nightcap.
"I'm really proud of Cassie," head coach Chris Steiner-Wilcoxson said. "She kept us in the game until we could get a few runs on the board. We were just very sluggish at the plate today. With six games left in the regular season, we've really got to push to get our offense going again."
Daniels (16-1) struck out nine batters in her fifth complete game shutout of the season. The no-hitter was the fifth in AUM history, and the first since Brandi Richards shutdown Faulkner on April 17 last year. The Valley Grande native also moved into a tie with three other players for the most wins in a single season at AUM.
"I felt pretty good today, but it's not like it was just me out there," Daniels said. "The defense played awesome; they were lights out. My screwball actually wasn't working early, but my coaches have told me all year to use other stuff as well. And because we worked so hard on the other pitches, I was able to get by until towards the end when it started working again."
Neither team had a hit in Game 1 until Emma Johansen laced a single to left in the bottom of the fifth inning. The game remained scoreless going into the sixth, when Jyssica Pepper led off with a single. She would later advance to second on a passed ball.
Belhaven appeared to have gotten out of the inning when Haley Johnson lifted a popup to pitcher Jessica Paris (11-3). Paris, however, dropped the ball, allowing Pepper to score AUM's first run. Leslie Kelly then hit a grounder which went right through Courtney Fairley and rolled all the way to the wall, letting Johnson score from first.
Daniels closed the door in the seventh. After a leadoff walk, she induced a double play groundball and a groundout to second base.
"All the seniors contributed today and I was very happy for them," Steiner-Wilcoxson said.
AUM took an early lead in Game 2, with Laci Driggers belting a solo shot to left in the first inning. The homer was her ninth of the year, moving her into a tie for second on the team, and her fourth in the last eight games.
Belhaven jumped in front in the third off of freshman pitcher Kayla Hale (6-3), with Shelby Watson smacking a two-run homer to left field for the Blazers' first runs of the day.
The Warhawks pieced together a run in the bottom of the fourth to tie the game. Ainsley Faulk led off with a walk. She advanced to second on a Jennifer Jenkins sacrifice, and moved to third on a Paige Nielsen groundout. Stuart drove her home with a clutch two-out single to left.
The Blazers went in front for good in the following inning, however. With runners on second and third, Jordan Cole hit an infield single in front of the plate. Both runners scored after Johnson threw the ball away trying to catch Lizzy Hess leaning off third. Belhaven added a third run on another error later in the inning.
Johnson hit a solo homer, her fourth of the year, in the bottom of the frame to round out the scoring. Katy Adair (10-4) allowed five hits in a complete game effort for the Blazers. Hale surrendered five runs (three earned) over 4 1/3 innings.
The loss snapped AUM's winning streak at nine games. The Warhawks will attempt to get back in the win column tomorrow afternoon with a 1 p.m. home doubleheader versus 14th-ranked William Carey. AUM swept the Crusaders in Hattiesburg earlier in April.
"I think the second game was a good wakeup call for us after winning so may games in a row," Daniels said. "Physically, there's nothing wrong with us. When we get back on track mentally, we'll be fine."