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Johnson reaches 20 wins as Pioneers sweep LMU

Johnson reaches 20 wins as Pioneers sweep LMU

HARROGATE, Tenn. --- Elizabeth Johnson became the first pitcher in NCAA Division II to reach 20 wins this season as she led Tusculum College to a pair of victories at Lincoln Memorial University in South Atlantic Conference softball action Tuesday afternoon.

The Pioneers captured the opener 6-2 and won the nightcap 2-1 on a seventh-inning single to improve to 23-12 overall and 6-0 in the SAC. Johnson (20-6) joins Teagan Gerhart of Stanford (20-1) as the only pitchers in any of the NCAA's three divisions with 20 wins this season.

Tusculum will be back on the road Saturday with a South Atlantic Conference doubleheader at Brevard, beginning at 1:00 p.m.

Game 1: Tusculum 6, Lincoln Memorial 2
(Box Score)

Lindsey Umberger went 3-for-4 with a double, home run and three runs scored to lead the Pioneer attack in the opener. Tusculum used five two-out hits in the fifth to score three times and break a 2-2 tie, and Johnson shut out LMU over the final five innings for her 19th win of the season.

Umberger hit her third home run of the season, an inside-the-park round-tripper, to tie the game at 2-2 in the third and connected for a tiebreaking double in the fifth to give Tusculum the lead for good at 3-2.

The Pioneers finished with nine hits in the opener, as Paige Sneed went 2-for-3 and Katie Brennan finished 2-for-4. Savannah Ewing drew three walks, including one with the bases loaded in the second to level the contest at 1-1.

Johnson gave up runs in each of the first two innings, but shut down the Railsplitters the rest of the way on just one hit, a fifth-inning single by Sarah Walz. Johnson finished with five strikeouts and one walk and allowed five hits in the complete-game effort.

Lincoln Memorial took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning on a solo home run by pitcher Amanda Snow, but Tusculum tied the game in the second as Sneed and Brennan picked up one-out singles and Katy Stuckwish drew a two-out walk to load the bases. Ewing followed by walking on a 3-1 pitch to force home Sneed with the tying run.

LMU regained the lead at 2-1 in the bottom of the second on an RBI single by Danae Reed, but Umberger brought Tusculum even in the top of the third as she put a ball into the right-field corner and came all the way around to even the score at 2-2.

The Pioneers had a big fifth inning to take the lead for good, scoring three runs on five hits to go on top 5-2. With two outs and nobody on, Kaitlyn Stroinski singled and came home on a double by Umberger. On the next pitch, Ashley Burke doubled down the line in left to bring home Umberger and extend the Pioneer lead to 4-2. Sneed then came through with a single to plate Burke and give Tusculum a 5-2 advantage.

"In that inning we broke out and put some big hits together and were able to get a little distance between ourselves and LMU," said Pioneer head coach Fred Gillum. "Just as it has been all year, defense was a big part of the win for us."

Tusculum added a run in the seventh as Umberger singled with one out, took second on an error, moved to third on a walk and scored on a groundout by Brennan. Johnson finished off the win by retiring the Railsplitters in order in the last of the seventh.

Snow (4-6) went the distance for the Railsplitters, giving up six runs (five earned) and walking five while striking out two.

Game 2: Tusculum 2, Lincoln Memorial 1
(Box Score)

With the score tied 1-1 in the seventh, Ashley Bagley came through with the go-ahead single to drive home Burke with what would be the winning run. Johnson gave up six hits, but struck out four and worked out of trouble in the fourth to help keep the game tied.

In the decisive seventh, Burke led off with a single against Railsplitter starter Meghan LaFevor and moved up on a sacrifice by Katie Gross. Brennan then drew a walk, and Bagley hit the first pitch from LaFevor into left-center for a single, with Burke scoring the go-ahead run.

"Without a doubt, that was the biggest hit of her career. She kept battling, and her at-bats kept getting better all day long," said Gillum of Bagley. "Liz gave us another solid pitching performance, and yet again strong defensive play was a key part of our success."

Tusculum had its first scoring threat in the third, as Bagley reached on an error to lead off the inning and moved around to third with two outs, but LaFevor induced a comebacker to end the inning. In the fourth, the Pioneers cashed in as Stroinski led off with a single and was replaced by Umberger on a fielder's choice grounder. Burke then roped a double to right-center to score Umberger all the way from first and give Tusculum a 1-0 lead.

The Railsplitters (10-21, 2-6 SAC) answered right back in the bottom of the fourth as Bridget Eicher drew a leadoff walk, moved to second on a sacrifice and scored on an RBI single by Snow. LMU would put runners at second and third with one out, but Johnson escaped further trouble on a grounder to third and a fly ball to center.

LaFevor set down the Pioneers in order in the fifth and sixth innings, but Burke's leadoff single in the seventh proved to be the catalyst for Tusculum's winning rally. LMU went down in order in the bottom of the seventh against Johnson to end the game.

Tusculum finished with just five hits off LaFevor (5-10), with Stroinski and Burke each going 2-for-3. Brianna Mulkey led the Railsplitters with a 3-for-3 effort at the plate, while Walz was 2-for-3 with a double.

- TC -

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