Pioneers shut down by Lees-McRae in sweep

Pioneers shut down by Lees-McRae in sweep

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- Lees-McRae College swept a non-conference softball doubleheader from Tusculum University on Tuesday, winning game one 3-1 in eight innings and capturing game two by a score of 2-1.

The Pioneers (7-3) saw their seven-game winning streak end in the opener, and managed a total of five hits in the doubleheader against the Bobcats (2-4). Tusculum will host 18th-ranked Young Harris on Thursday at 4 p.m. at Red Edmonds Field.

Game 1: Lees-McRae 3, Tusculum 1 (8 innings)
Faith Cooke hit a two-run home run in the top of the eighth inning to give Lees-McRae the victory in game one. Skylar Edwards (1-1) carried a shutout into the bottom of the seventh, but a throwing error allowed the Pioneers to score the tying run. Edwards then got the final out on a line drive to center with two on base in the bottom of the eighth to allow the Bobcats to come away with the win.

Lees-McRae outhit Tusculum 10-3 in game one, with Cooke finishing 3-for-4 as all nine starters reached base by hit or walk. Edwards, who struck out five and walked two, outdueled Tusculum starter Allison Pate (3-1), who gave up nine hits and two earned runs in 7 1/3 innings with seven strikeouts and two walks.

The Bobcats opened the scoring with two outs in the first as Kara Cunningham doubled and scored on a double by Julie Gast. Tusculum threatened in the third as Grayson Brown led off with a double and Caitlyn Brinkley was safe on an error on a bunt attempt. Brinkley stole second to put runners at second and third with nobody out, but Edwards retired the side on a comebacker and two strikeouts.

Lees-McRae threatened in the fourth as Cooke led off with a single, moved to second on a groundout and took third on a single by Sara Beth Thomas. However, Pate was able to end the inning with a strikeout. The Pioneers looked to tie the game in the sixth as Chloe Freischmidt pinch hit and doubled to deep center with one out, but Edwards set down the next two batters to preserve the 1-0 Bobcat lead.

In the bottom of the seventh, Alexis Grampp was hit by a pitch and moved to second on a sacrifice by Anna Alloway. Brown then reached on a ground ball that was thrown out of play behind first base, which brought in Grampp with the tying run. With the winning run on second, Edwards was able to get out of trouble and send the game to extra innings.

Cunningham was placed on second to start the eighth and Pate began the inning with a strikeout. However, Cooke drilled the first pitch she saw over the fence in left to give the Bobcats a 3-1 lead. Lees-McRae threatened for more runs, but Tusculum first baseman Emily Hester was able to start a rundown on a ground ball that cut down a Bobcat runner at the plate.

The Pioneers had one final chance to rally in the bottom of the eighth with Brittney Franse starting on second base. Taylor Johnson walked with two outs to bring up Hester as the potential winning run, but her liner to center was flagged down by Thomas for the final out.

Taylor Battle accounted for the Pioneers' third hit of the game with a leadoff single in the first inning. Grampp reached base safely twice in three trips with a walk and a hit by pitch.

Game 2: Lees-McRae 2, Tusculum 1
Cunningham (1-3) allowed just a second-inning RBI double by Brown and a sixth-inning single by Alloway, working out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth before setting down the Pioneers in order in the seventh. She struck out eight and walked three and needed 120 pitches to navigate her seven-inning effort.

Tusculum starter Taylor Plemons (2-1) nearly matched Cunningham pitch for pitch, but a fifth-inning solo home run by the Bobcats' Caitlyn Ray broke a 1-1 deadlock. Plemons gave up four hits and one earned run, with six strikeouts and one walk.

Just as in game one, the Bobcats scored in the top of the first inning as Ray reached second on a throwing error, moved to third on a sacrifice and scampered home on a sacrifice fly by Cunningham. Tusculum responded in the second as Hester led off with a walk and was replaced on a fielder's choice grounder by Grampp. Brown then rifled a pitch to the gap in deep left-center as Grampp sped around to score the tying run.

The Bobcats put two runners on base in the fourth on a leadoff single by Gast and a one-out single by Katelyn Wyatt, but Plemons got out of further trouble with a strikeout and a popup. The Pioneers rallied in their half of the fourth as Johnson walked to lead off the inning and Grampp followed with a one-out free pass, but Cunningham came through with a strikeout and a grounder to first to preserve the 1-1 deadlock.

In the fifth, Ray homered to left on a 1-2 pitch with one out to give the Bobcats the lead back at 2-1. Tusculum's best threat came in its half of the sixth as Alloway singled down the left field line and Hester reached on a dropped popup down the right field line. Brown was hit by a pitch to load the bases, but Cunningham induced a routine ground ball to second to strand all three runners before pitching a perfect seventh.