GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- Katie Brennan went 2-for-3 and drove in three runs as Tusculum College held on for a 5-4 victory over Erskine College and a split of their non-conference softball doubleheader Monday afternoon at Red Edmonds Field.
In the opener, the Flying Fleet blasted three home runs in the last two innings to pick up a 5-1 victory over the Pioneers. With the split, Erskine is 14-16 while Tusculum moves to 27-16.
The Pioneers will be on the road Thursday with a non-conference doubleheader at Queens University of Charlotte, beginning at 5:00 p.m.
Game 1: Erskine 5, Tusculum 1
Bailey Thornton broke a 1-1 tie with a solo home run in the top of the sixth, and Larissa Shannon and Morgan Purcell went deep on consecutive pitches in the seventh to boost the Flying Fleet to the victory.
Erskine pounded out 11 hits in the game, led by a 3-for-3 effort from Colleen Gardner. Shannon and Thornton each finished 2-for-4 and winning pitcher Kelsey Spurrier came away with two hits in three trips to the plate.
Spurrier (6-7) worked around a pinch-RBI double from Katie Gross in the fifth to claim the win for Erskine. She struck out three and walked four while tossing 121 pitches in the victory.
Both Spurrier and Pioneer starter Kaytlin Stroinski worked out of early jams by recording strikeouts, but it was Erskine that broke through on the scoreboard first in the fourth on a two-out RBI single by Gardner.
Tusculum answered in the fifth as Paige Sneed drew a walk to lead off the inning and yielded to pinch-runner Ashley Bagley. A sacrifice by Lindsay Bridges moved Bagley to second, and Gross followed with a liner to deep left for a double to plate Bagley with the tying run.
The tie lasted exactly two pitches in the top of the sixth, as Thornton led off by drilling an 0-1 pitch to deep left-center for her fifth home run of the season and a 2-1 Flying Fleet lead. Erskine tacked on three runs in the seventh as Shannon golfed her 10th homer of the season to deep right-center and Purcell came right back with her fourth round-tripper of the year to extend the Erskine lead to 5-1.
Stroinski (1-4), who went 1-for-2 with a walk at the plate, struck out five and walked one in seven innings for the Pioneers. Brennan accounted for Tusculum's other hit with a one-out single in the second.
"Kaytlin did a really good job. We can't always expect her to shut people out and expect our defense to be perfect," said Pioneer head coach Fred Gillum. "Give Erskine credit, they came in and swung the bats and scored the runs they needed to take the win."
Game 2: Tusculum 5, Erskine 4
Brennan had an RBI single in the first inning and a two-run triple in the fourth to help the Pioneers build a 5-1 lead, and Elizabeth Johnson survived a rally by the Flying Fleet in the seventh to pick up her 23rd victory of the season.
Stroinski walked twice, stole a base and scored two runs for the Pioneers, who jumped on Erskine starter Heather Richey (7-6) for five runs (four earned) on six hits in the first four innings.
Tusculum took a 2-0 lead in the first as Bridges, who was a last-minute addition to the game-two lineup after regular third baseman Savannah Ewing was scratched due to illness, led off with a double and took third on a sacrifice by Alix Kruel. Stroinski then walked and stole second, with Bridges beating the throw back to home plate to complete the double steal and give the Pioneers a 1-0 lead.
Brennan then singled to left to drive home Stroinski for a 2-0 Tusculum lead, but Richey was able to prevent further damage on a popup and a groundout.
The Pioneers nearly pulled off a triple play in the third. A bunt single and a late throw on a bunt gave the Flying Fleet runners at first and second with no outs, and leadoff hitter Ericka McCarson followed with a drive to right-center that Pioneer centerfielder Brennan tracked down in the alley. Her throw back to the infield easily doubled the Erskine runner off second, but the runner from first was able to scamper back just ahead of the second relay throw.
Tusculum added an unearned run in the third as back-to-back errors and a walk loaded the bases for Lindsey Umberger, who singled through the left side to drive home Brennan and give the Pioneers a 3-0 lead.
Shannon got one run back for the Flying Fleet as she golfed a solo home run just over the fence in right for her 11th of the season, pulling Erskine within 3-1 in the fourth. However, the Pioneers produced more two-out magic in their half of the fourth as Kruel singled and Stroinski walked ahead of Brennan, who brought both home with a triple off the fence in deep left-center to give Tusculum a 5-1 lead.
Johnson rolled into the seventh having allowed a run on three hits, but the Flying Fleet loaded the bases on two singles and a walk. Spurrier followed with a pinch-single to pull Erskine with 5-2, and McCarson singled down the line in left to bring home two more runs and trim the Tusculum lead to 5-4. An infield single loaded the bases for the dangerous Shannon with two outs, but she popped up to Kruel directly on the bag at second to end the game.
"KB did such a good job today, and had a tremendous effort defensively. At the plate, she made some adjustments with Coach Huebner yesterday and she got a really good swing on the ball twice," said Gillum. "Lindsay Bridges stepped up for us and did a good job, playing first in the first game and third in the second game. Erskine fought back against us, but a win is a win."
Johnson (23-9) allowed seven hits and four earned runs while striking out three and walking two for the Pioneers. No player in the Erskine lineup had more than one hit, with Whitney Brown leading the way by going 1-for-2 with a walk and a run scored.
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