HICKORY, N.C. --- The third-seeded Mars Hill College softball team survived a torrid rally by seventh-seeded Tusculum College in the 2009 Food Lion South Atlantic Conference Tournament, defeating the Pioneers 10-5 to advance into the quarterfinal round. Mars Hill improves to 26-18 on the season while Tusculum ends its campaign with a 15-33 record.

Five players picked up a hit and an RBI for the Pioneers, including Makenzie Loy's go-ahead RBI single in the first which plated Taylor MacDonald to give Tusculum an early 2-1 lead. Loy joined Rachel Hopper, Ashley Basilicato, Phlyscia Powell and Racheal Wilburn with one RBI. Holli Cadenhead (10-18) got the starting nod and went the distance for Tusculum, allowing five earned runs and striking out two Lions in seven innings of work.

Ashley Seawell paced the Lions with three hits, including a pivotal two-run home run in the fifth inning. Jade Bullins picked up two hits on the day and drove in a game-high four runs. Ashley Harber, the co-SAC Player of the Year, went 2-for-3 in the game with two runs scored, as Anna James and Hayley Brannon also had two hits for Mars Hill.

Tiffany Farthing (10-4) pitched the first three and one-thirds innings for the Lions, allowing three earned runs on five hits and striking out five. Paige Brantley entered in relief of Farthing with one out in the fourth, and hurled three and two-thirds of no-hit innings to preserve the win for Farthing.

Mars Hill opened the scoring in the top of the first when Seawell singled home Rebekah Huff to give the Lions an early 1-0 lead. Tusculum answered with two runs in the bottom of the inning to take a 2-1 lead, before Mars plated four runners in the third frame to reclaim the advantage on Bullins? two-run single up the middle.

Mars Hill extended the lead to 6-2 with one run in the fourth on an RBI single by James. Tusculum's bats came to life in the fourth, plating three runs on four hits to cut the margin to 6-5. The Pioneers closed the gap on three straight RBI singles by Basilicato, Powell and Wilburn before Farthing and Brantley combined to retire the final three batters of the inning to quell the rally.

The Lions stretched the lead to 8-5 on Seawell's two-run shot in the fifth, and later equaled the final margin of 10-5 when Bullins? launched a 2-1 pitch over the fence in center for a two-run home run.

Mars Hill advances to face the winner of Catawba and Wingate today at 4 p.m. Tusculum ends its season after establishing a program record with a .956 fielding percentage in its campaign. The Pioneers are expected to return 18 letter-winners next season, including current juniors Cadenhead and Wilburn.

- TC -