Pioneers retain SAC lead with doubleheader split at Catawba

Pioneers retain SAC lead with doubleheader split at Catawba

Tusculum College and Catawba College split a South Atlantic Conference softball doubleheader Friday afternoon at Whitley Field. The Pioneers won the opener 2-1 behind a three-hitter from Elizabeth Johnson, while the host Indians used a four-run fourth inning to take the nightcap 6-1.

The Pioneers (21-14, 9-3 SAC) have a one-game lead over Anderson, Mars Hill and Carson-Newman in the conference standings with six regular-season league games remaining. Tusculum hosts King in a non-conference doubleheader Monday at 5 p.m. while Catawba (24-14, 5-5 SAC) travels to Brevard Tuesday afternoon at 2 p.m. for a SAC twinbill.

Game 1: Tusculum 2, Catawba 1
(Box Score)

Johnson (9-8) needed just 73 pitches to shut down a conference opponent on the road for the second time this week, limiting the Indians to three hits and a sixth-inning run while striking out three. Meanwhile, the Pioneers were able to work around 11 strikeouts by Catawba freshman standout Carley Tysinger (17-6) by picking up seven hits and scoring runs in the fifth and sixth.

Catawba stranded two runners in the first thanks to a popup double play on a bunt, while Tusculum left runners at first and second in the third. In the fifth, the Pioneers broke through as Katie Brennan singled with one out and Alix Kruel reached on a two-out infield single. A single by Carolyn Williamson loaded the bases, and Brennan would come home as Tysinger uncorked a wild pitch.

Tusculum increased its lead in the sixth with an unearned run. Paige Sneed reached on a throwing error with two outs, and Lindsey Umberger was safe on an infield hit. Brennan then singled to right field to drive home Sneed and give the Pioneers a 2-0 lead.

Johnson allowed just one hit through the first five innings, but allowed two hits to the Indians in the sixth which they turned into a run. With runners at first and second and one out, Sydney Hyder singled to left to drive home pinch-runner Casey Baucom, but the Pioneers were able to cut down the potential tying run at third base on the play for the second out. Johnson then retired Tysinger on a fly ball to end the inning, and needed just four pitches to get through the seventh inning and close out the win.

Williamson went 3-for-4 out of the leadoff spot for the Pioneers while Brennan reached in all three trips to the plate with two singles and a walk. Hyder was 1-for-2 with a walk for the Indians in the opener, while Emily D. Huneycutt reached twice on a hit by pitch.

Game 2: Catawba 6, Tusculum 1
(Box Score)

Tysinger struck out seven and allowed one hit in 4 2/3 scoreless innings of relief to earn the win for the Indians in game two, while Emily D. Huneycutt hit a two-run home run to spark a four-run fourth inning for Catawba in the victory.

Kelsey Burgess added a two-run single in the fourth inning for Catawba, which finished with nine hits as a team. Gina Gerone was 2-for-3 with a run scored as eight of the nine starters for the Indians picked up a hit.

The Pioneers collected seven hits in the first 2 1/3 innings off Indians starter Emily B. Huneycutt, but managed just one run as they left nine runners on base. Stroinski accounted for Tusculum's lone run with a third-inning solo home run as part of a 2-for-4 performance, and Kruel was 2-for-3 with a pair of singles.

Tusculum opened the game with three straight singles, but a caught stealing thwarted the rally as Emily B. Huneycutt was able to strand runners at first and second. The Pioneers loaded the bases with two outs in the second on singles by Leah Powell and Kruel along with an error, but Huneycutt came through with a strikeout to preserve the scoreless tie.

In the third, Stroinski opened the inning by hitting a 1-2 pitch over the fence in left-center for her fourth home run of the season and a 1-0 Tusculum lead. The Pioneers rallied in the fourth as Kruel led off with a double, but she was stranded at third by Tysinger to end the inning.

Tusculum starter Kelly King held Catawba without a hit until the fourth inning, when Tara Gibbs singled with one out. On the next pitch, Emily D. Huneycutt connected for her fifth home run of the season and a 2-1 Indians lead. After the next two Catawba batters reached on singles, King gave way to Johnson, who allowed a two-run single to Burgess for a 4-1 lead.

Catawba scored twice more in the sixth on RBI singles by Kimberly Fesperman and Amanda Terry to go on top 6-1, and Tysinger (18-6) finished off the Pioneers by retiring 12 of the final 13 batters she faced.

King (10-6) surrendered four earned runs on four hits in 3 1/3 innings for the Pioneers, while Johnson gave up two runs on five hits across the final 2 2/3 innings.

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