Pioneers blank Mars Hill to earn split of SAC doubleheader

Pioneers blank Mars Hill to earn split of SAC doubleheader

In a battle for first place in the South Atlantic Conference softball standings, Tusculum College and Mars Hill College split a doubleheader Sunday afternoon. The Lions rallied for a 2-1 nine-inning victory in the opener while the Pioneers came back for a 9-0 victory in six innings in game two.

The Pioneers (15-12, 3-1 SAC) return home Wednesday night to play Lincoln Memorial in a doubleheader starting at 4 p.m. at Red Edmonds Field. The Lions (14-6, 5-1 SAC) host Minnesota-Crookston in a non-conference twinbill on Wednesday afternoon.

Game 1: Mars Hill 2, Tusculum 1 (9 innings)
(Box Score)

The Pioneers were one out away from an extra-inning victory, but the Lions' Taylor Jordan hit a two-run double to drive home the tying and winning runs and snap the Pioneers' win streak at eight games.

After eight scoreless innings, Tusculum took a 1-0 lead in the top of the ninth on a bunt single by Nicole Ball. In the bottom of the ninth, Mars Hill had the tying run at third with two outs when Aleshia Peek drew a walk. Peek then stole second and scored along with Robyn Stanek on Jordan's double to left-center.

Tusculum was held without a baserunner for the first five innings by Mars Hill starter Taylor Morris before Katie Brennan led off the sixth with a walk. Leah Powell then picked up the first Pioneer hit with a bunt single, and Miranda Beeler followed with an infield single to load the bases. However, Morris retired the side on a popup and two strikeouts to preserve the tie.

Mars Hill nearly won the game in the bottom of the seventh, as a leadoff single by Morris and an error put runners at first and second with no outs. Tusculum starter Elizabeth Johnson was able to escape trouble by setting down the Lions on a strikeout, bunt and groundout to send the game to extra innings.

In the eighth, the Lions moved the winning run to third base with one out, but Johnson induced a pair of ground balls to Lindsey Umberger to short to keep the game scoreless. After taking the lead in the ninth, the Pioneers had runners at second and third with one out, but Morris kept the deficit at 1-0 by retiring the next two batters on a strikeout and popup.

Morris (6-3) struck out 13 batters and allowed just one unearned run on five hits. Johnson (6-8) yielded two runs (one earned) on three hits while walking three and striking out four.

Game 2: Tusculum 9, Mars Hill 0 (6 innings)
(Box Score)

After their heartbreaking loss in the opener, the Pioneers left no doubt in game two as they scored twice in the first and five more runs in the second. The outburst was more than enough for Tusculum righthander Kelly King (8-4), who threw a four-hitter for her fourth shutout of the season.

Carolyn Williamson went 3-for-4 with three runs scored, Brennan was 3-for-4 with a home run and three runs batted in and Ball was 3-for-3 to lead a 14-hit attack for the Pioneers. Tusculum picked up seven of its hits in the first two innings off Lion starter Taylor Hussey, who suffered her first loss of the season after seven wins.

The Pioneers took a 2-0 lead in the first as Williamson extended her hitting streak to 11 games with a leadoff single. She later stole second and scored on a two-run home run by Brennan, her third of the season.

Tusculum added five two-out runs on six hits in the second to take a 7-0 lead. With one out, Ball singled, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored on a single by Alix Kruel. After a single by Williamson, Beeler reached on an infield single to drive home Kruel and give Tusculum a 4-0 lead. Kaytlin Stroinski then launched her third home run of the season, a three-run shot to extend the Pioneer advantage to 7-0.

The Pioneers put the game away with two runs in the sixth, as Williamson doubled with one out, moved to third on a single by Beeler and scored on a sacrifice fly by Stroinski. Brennan followed with an RBI single to drive home Beeler and give the Pioneers a 9-0 lead. King worked around a two-out walk in the bottom of the inning to finish off the victory.

Hussey allowed seven runs on seven hits in 1 2/3 innings for Mars Hill, while Allie Carrigan gave up seven hits and two runs in 4 1/3 innings of relief. Four different players accounted for the four hits for the Lions off King, who recorded 15 of her 18 outs on the ground.

Kruel was 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored for the Pioneers, who also received four runs batted in from Stroinski in the win. Beeler was 2-for-4 with a stolen base and scored twice for Tusculum.

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