Late Pioneer rally unable to prevent sweep by Limestone

Late Pioneer rally unable to prevent sweep by Limestone

GAFFNEY, S.C. --- Limestone swept Tusculum in a non-conference softball doubleheader Sunday afternoon, winning the opener 2-0 before holding on for a 9-8 win in game two. The Saints improved to 7-3 with the sweep, while the Pioneers fell to 4-2 with the losses.

Tusculum will return home to face Lees-McRae in a doubleheader on Tuesday starting at 2 p.m. at Red Edmonds Field.

Game 1: Limestone 2, Tusculum 0
Courtney Smith (3-0) tossed a five-hitter and struck out five, while Mary Hart knocked in the only two runs of the game with a single in the third inning for the Saints. Smith threw 67 of her 86 pitches for strikes and did not issue a walk to earn the victory.

Limestone had the first threat of the game in the bottom of the first against Tusculum starter Taylor Plemons, as Kat Tate led off with a single and moved to second on an sacrifice. After a walk to Hart, Plemons and the Pioneers escaped further damage as a fly ball to left field off the bat of Emma Swearingen was turned into a double play by Taylor Battle.

Tusculum picked up its first baserunner in the second on a two-out double by Anna Alloway, which was the only extra-base hit of the game for either team. In the third, Brittney Franse led off with a bunt single and moved to second on a sacrifice. With two outs, Delaney Guerrero reached on an error to put runners at the corners, but Smith retired the side on a comebacker to keep the game scoreless.

In the bottom of the third, Lindsay Mason and Ashley Parnell led off with back-to-back singles for the Saints. The runners moved up on a groundout, but had to hold on a popup which was the second out. Hart then hit Plemons' first pitch into left field as Mason and Parnell came home to give Limestone a 2-0 lead.

Tusculum went in turn in the fourth, but threatened in the fifth as Battle led off with a single. However, a liner by Franse back to the circle was snagged by Smith and turned into a double play. Morgan Mahaffey followed with a single and took third when the ball was misplayed in the outfield, but a foul popup ended the inning.

The Pioneers had a final rally in the seventh as Brittany Fletcher led off with a single and moved to second on a fly out, but a groundout ended the game.

Plemons (2-1) worked three innings for the Pioneers, allowing four hits and two runs with one strikeout and two walks. Lizzy Galloway pitched the final three innings for Tusculum, striking out two and walking one while not allowing a hit.

Tusculum outhit Limestone 5-4 in the game, but neither team had a player with more than one hit. Both Tate and Hart were 1-for-2 with a walk for the Saints, with each team leaving five runners on base.

Game 2: Limestone 9, Tusculum 8
In contrast to the pitchers' duel in the opener, game two was a slugfest as Limestone scored a run in the second, three in the third and four in the fourth to put Tusculum on the brink of defeat. However, the Pioneers sprung for two runs in the fifth and five more in the sixth to pull within a run before Smith came on in relief to earn the save.

Guerrero and Alloway each went 3-for-4 with a run scored in game two for the Pioneers, while Sammie West finished 2-for-3 and drove in five runs. Each team finished with 11 hits in the game, with four of the six extra-base hits coming off the bats of the Saints.

Tusculum took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first against Limestone starter Josie Weber as Guerrero and Alloway had back-to-back singles with one out, followed by a single by Emily Hester to load the bases. West then hit a sacrifice fly to enable Guerrero to score the game's first run.

Pioneer starter Allison Pate threw a scoreless first inning, but gave up a run in the second on a double by Macie Parker that brought home Sydney Turner. In the third, Swearingen had a one-out double to bring home Tate and give the Saints a 2-1 advantage, then Cara Phillips came through with a two-out, two-run single off reliever Galloway as Limestone took a 4-1 lead.

The Saints erupted for five runs in the fourth against three Pioneer pitchers. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases for Parnell, who singled home Parker to give Limestone a 5-1 lead. A sacrifice fly by Hart, a two-run double by Turner and an RBI double by Phillips extended the Limestone lead to 9-1 heading into the fifth.

Facing a run-rule loss, Tusculum came through with two runs in the fifth to stay alive. Guerrero led off with a single and Alloway followed with a double to put runners on second and third. An RBI single by Hester scored pinch-runner Courtney Gibson and make it a 9-2 game, followed by a single from West to drive home pinch-runner Emily White and pull the Pioneers within 9-3.

In the sixth, Battle led off by reaching on an error and Fletcher drew a pinch-walk. Another error loaded the bases for Franse, who singled to drive in Battle and cut the Limestone lead to 9-4. A fielder's choice grounder by Alloway scored Mahaffey to draw Tusculum within 9-5, and after a walk to Hester reloaded the bases, Smith returned to the circle only to allow a bases-clearing double by West to shave the Saints lead to 9-8. Emma Casey followed with a walk to put runners at first and third, but Smith got a fly ball to end the inning. Smith then retired the side in order in the seventh for the save.

Pate (2-1) allowed four runs (three earned) on three hits in 2 1/3 innings, with one strikeout and two walks. After Galloway and Ivee Richesin ran into trouble in the fourth, Plemons came on in relief and scattered two hits in 2 1/3 innings. For Limestone, Weber (3-3) went 5 2/3 innings and allowed 10 hits and eight runs (three earned) with three strikeouts and three walks. Smith gave up a hit and a walk but no runs over the final 1 1/3 innings for her first save of the season.

Turner finished 3-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored for Limestone in game two, while Phillips was 2-for-3 with two runs batted in and Parker finished 2-for-3 with an RBI. Tate was 0-for-3 out of the leadoff spot but drew a walk and scored two runs.