College of Coastal Georgia’s softball team ran up against a buzzsaw in the circle Friday in Brenau’s Kathleen Daniel as the Mariners fell in both games of a doubleheader 4-0 and 5-0.
For all the action on the field, it was some off-the-field drama that caused a stir Friday when a bizarre situation between Brenau coach Devon Thomas and Coastal fans boiled over.
Members of the Coastal Georgia men’s basketball team joined the stands for the second game. They’re boisterous support early in the game drew the ire of Thomas and a rebuke from the home-plate umpire after Thomas complained.
The umpire threatened to clear the entire stadium of fans. This puzzled fans and Coastal Georgia officials alike as nobody heard anything derogatory coming from the players.
During the sixth inning, when Brenau took the lead, the basketball players turned up the enthusiasm to get behind Coastal. This led Thomas to antagonize the situation by yelling and gesturing at the players from outside the Brenau dugout.
The game was stopped, and the umpire had a long conversation with Minick. While that conversation took place, Thomas left his dugout and came to the Coastal Georgia side of the field, where he snapped at Mariner fans and support staff.
The ordeal ended with the players agreeing to leave the stands, though their apparent transgression was never elaborated on by the umpire. There was also no apparent rebuke to Thomas from the umpire for his actions during the inning.
On the field, Daniel entered the doubleheader as one of the top pitchers in the entire NAIA with 20 wins and a 0.39 ERA on the season. Coastal would get just one hit in Game 1 and none in Game 2 of the doubleheader.
“She leads the nation in almost every category,” said Coastal Georgia head coach Mike Minick. “She’s the best, and it was tough.”
The Mariners’ pitchers matched Daniel for most of the game. Game 1 was a pitchers’ duel between Daniel and Coastal’s Paige Alt. Both would allow just one baserunner, both on walks, through the first three innings.
In the top of the fourth, Brenau’s Kelsey Payne punched a leadoff single through the infield. A fielder’s choice and an error by Coastal would put runners on second and third with one out. Sheldon Kendrix’s single to right field would plate the two runners to give the Tigers the lead.
Coastal threatened in the bottom half of the fourth with Morgan Slater getting Coastal’s only hit of the day on an infield single. Slater would steal second, but the next three batters all flew out to end the inning.
Brenau added two more runs in the fifth when a two-out single by Autumn Conaway brought home two. Conaway was struck down at second trying to take a base on the throw to home, and the inning ended.
The Mariners threatened again in the final half inning. A walk to Katie Burns put a runner on with one out. The next batter, Alt, blasted a high fly ball toward the right field gap. The Brenau fielder was able to get under the fly, but the ball popped out of her glove, putting two Coastal runners on with one out.
Daniel picked up her teammate, inducing a groundout and picking up her 10th strikeout to end the game.
In Game 2, Brenau’s bats were able to find some holes that Coastal’s hard-hit line drives could not. Despite getting 12 runners on base though in the first five innings, Brenau couldn’t push a run across thanks to good pitching from Dawn Stewart and even better defense.
Taylor Horne, who caught for Coastal in Game 1, moved to left field in game two and helped keep Brenau off the scoreboard with some clutch throws. Horne cut down a runner at home to end the third inning and followed it with another fielding assist at the plate in the fifth inning.
“Since she’s been here at Coastal, Taylor has played catcher, shortstop, third base and outfield, and she can play them all really well,” Minick said. “I’m able to move people around the lineup because of her versatility.”
Brenau’s persistence finally caught up to Coastal in the sixth inning. Five hits and two Mariner errors allowed the Tigers to plate five runs in the inning.
“They got some seeing-eye singles and one girl hit one hard,” Minick said. “I thought our pitchers pitched well, but (Daniel) just a little bit better right now. She’s lights out. She hasn’t given up a run in about six games. You’ve got to give her credit.”
When the game continued, Daniel kept the Mariners from getting a hit in the sixth and seventh to secure the win. Daniel finished the day with two wins, 18 strikeouts and no earned runs in fourteen innings of work.
Stewart took the loss in Game 2, giving up five runs, three earned and striking out three in 5 1/3 innings. Alt allowed four runs, three earned and struck out five in six innings of work in Game 1. Chloe Boulineau didn’t allow a run in 2 2/3 innings of relief with six strikeouts.
The losses drop Coastal Georgia to 18-8 overall and 2-2 in Southern States Athletic Conference play. Brenau moves to 29-5 and 8-0 in conference play. Despite the loss, Minick says the team still has a chance to finish the first part of conference slate in good position.
“We win the two (today) and the two Monday, and we’ll finish the first half at 6-2 and in second place, which wouldn’t be bad,” Minick said.
The Mariners host Faulkner in another conference doubleheader at 1 p.m. today.