HICKORY, N.C. --- The second-seeded Lenoir-Rhyne University softball team (35-9) scored eight unanswered runs on Thursday in the opening round of the Food Lion South Atlantic Conference Tournament, defeating seventh-seeded Tusculum College 10-4 to advance to the next round against sixth-seeded Carson-Newman College. Tusculum (15-32) moves into the consolation bracket, and will face third-seeded Mars Hill College on Friday.
Alex Kimbrell each had two hits for Tusculum as five Pioneers recorded a base knock in the game. Ashley Burke and Makenzie Loy each drove in two runs for the Pioneers on a pair of two-run doubles. Holli Cadenhead (10-17) made the start and went the distance for the Pioneers, walking four and striking out two.
Six Bears recorded multi-hit games and combined for 13 hits, including a 3-for-4 day from Kat Rivers. Sarah Atkins clubbed a pair of home runs, driving in five of L-R's 10 runs. Brittany Furr also had two RBIs in the game.
Dawon Millwood made the start for the Bears and threw the first three innings, allowing two earned runs on three hits. Noel Belk (14-3) entered the game in the fourth inning, throwing four scoreless frames with one strikeout to pick up the win.
Lenoir-Rhyne opened the scoring with two runs in the third on Atkins? first home run of the day, a two-run shot to center field which plated Carlee Carpenter to give the Bears a 2-0 lead. Tusculum responded with four runs in the fourth, dropping in five hits.
After Kimbrell dropped down a bunt single and Taylor MacDonald reached on a Lenoir-Rhyne error, Burke laced a 3-2 pitch into the left center field gap for a two-run double that tied the game at 2-2. Rachel Hopper then reached on an error to put runners on first and third with no outs. Pinch-runner Brittany Hunley then stole second and scored on Loy's two-run double to right center, which gave Tusculum a 4-2 lead heading into the bottom of the fourth.
Lenoir-Rhyne reclaimed the lead in the fifth on a three-run homer to right by Atkins, her second long ball of the day and ninth of the season. The three-run shot gave Lenoir-Rhyne a 5-4 lead which it would then extend to the final margin of 10-4 with five runs in the six.
Tusculum returns to the diamond on Friday when the Pioneers square off against Mars Hill in an elimination game at Hickory High School in Hickory, N.C. First pitch is slated for 11 am.
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