Tusculum outlasts Francis Marion in extra innings to sweep doubleheader

Tusculum outlasts Francis Marion in extra innings to sweep doubleheader

The Tusculum College softball team extended its winning streak to six games with a doubleheader sweep at Francis Marion University on Thursday. The Pioneers (26-20) won the opener 4-1 and outlasted the Patriots (22-24) 7-6 in nine innings in a marathon nightcap to win their third straight twinbill.

The Pioneers continue their South Carolina swing on Saturday when they play a South Atlantic Conference doubleheader at Coker, beginning at 1 p.m.

Game 1: Tusculum 4, Francis Marion 1
(Box Score)

Patriots starter Taylor Luff allowed three hits and tied a school record with 17 strikeouts, but two of the three hits were home runs off the bats of Courtney Hutcherson and Alix Kruel. Kruel's blast, a three-run shot in the fifth, gave the Pioneers a 4-0 lead in support of Eliza Davis (5-7), who allowed four hits and struck out two in the win.

Luff struck out the first six batters before Hutcherson led off the third by driving her third home run of the season over the left-field fence for a 1-0 Tusculum lead. In the fifth, a one-out error followed by a two-out walk to Paige Sneed set up Kruel for her first home run of the year and third clutch hit in as many games, which pushed the Pioneers on top 4-0.

Davis did not allow a hit until Jessie Sims delivered a two-out RBI single in the fifth to trim the Pioneer lead to 4-1. The Patriots had two hits in the sixth and put two runners on base in the seventh, but Davis got out of trouble both times to finish off the victory.

All nine Pioneer batters struck out at least once against Luff (12-13), with Hutcherson the only player to reach base more than once as she drew a walk to go along with her home run. Lindsey Brown was the lone Patriot to reach twice as she picked up a hit and a walk despite not entering the game until the fifth inning.

Game 2: Tusculum 7, Francis Marion 6 (9 innings)
(Box Score)

In a back-and-forth game, the Pioneers escaped with the extra-inning win despite the Patriots having the tying or winning runs in scoring position in each of the last three innings. Sneed's fourth RBI of the game in the top of the ninth inning drove home Nicole Ball with the winning run in a contest that saw the Pioneers outhit by a 13-6 margin and allow five unearned runs. However, the Patriots stranded 15 runners on base including the bases loaded three times.

Sneed finished 2-for-3 with a double to go along with her four RBIs, while Ball, Hutcherson and Miranda Beeler scored two runs apiece in the win for the Pioneers. Mikala Barnhart paced the Patriots by going 2-for-3 with two walks and two runs scored, while Taylor Barrineau, Shelby Mathews and pitcher Katie Carnes had two hits apiece.

Rachel Medley (5-4) worked eight innings to pick up the victory for the Pioneers, allowing six runs (one earned) on 13 hits with four strikeouts and two walks. Kelly King pitched a scoreless ninth for her first save, getting the final out on a grounder to Ball at third with runners at first and third. Carnes (10-11) gave up seven runs (three earned) on six hits with seven strikeouts and a walk.

The Pioneers grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first as Beeler reached on a bunt single with one out and later scored on a bunt by Kaytlin Stroinski. The Patriots responded with a run on four singles in the bottom of the first, scoring on an RBI single by Barrineau, but Medley retired Carnes on a grounder with the bases loaded to retire the side.

Tusculum grabbed a 3-1 lead in the top of the second without benefit of a hit, as Ball walked and Hutcherson reached on an error. Ball then scored on a wild pitch and Hutcherson came home on a sacrifice fly by Sneed for a 3-1 advantage. Francis Marion responded with three runs in the bottom of the second on an error and a single by Ashley Burney to go on top 4-3.

The Patriots scored again in the third on an error to go ahead 5-3, but Medley avoided further damage by getting Burney on a fly ball with the bases loaded for the final out. In the fourth, the Pioneers came back and tied the game 5-5 as Tavi Parris was hit by a pitch, Hutcherson singled and both scored on a double by Sneed that knotted the score.

The Pioneers nearly took the lead in the sixth as Ball doubled with two outs, then tried to score following an error on a ground ball by Hutcherson. However, left fielder Briana Barzola threw out Ball at the plate to keep the game tied at 5-5.

Francis Marion nearly won the game in the seventh as Barrineau and Carnes led off with back-to-back singles. After a forceout, Barnhart reached on an line single off Sneed's glove at first to load the bases with one out. Barzola then hit a grounder to Kruel at second that she threw to the plate for the force on Carnes, on a call that was initially ruled safe but then changed to out. Medley then retired Megan Smith on a grounder to Ball at third to send the game to extra innings.

In the international tiebreak, the Pioneers scored quickly as Beeler came around on an error on a bunt by Stroinski to give Tusculum a 7-6 lead. The Patriots used a Tusculum error to put runners at second and third with nobody out in their half of the inning, and Brown delivered a single to left that scored Smith with the tying run. However, Williamson threw out Kristie Hanewinckel at the plate to preserved the deadlock and extend the contest to a ninth inning.

Tusculum grabbed the lead for good in the ninth as Ball started on second, went to third on a bunt by Hutcherson and scored on a single by Sneed for a 7-6 lead. In the Francis Marion ninth, King came on and retired Carnes on a sacrifice with Myers moving to third. After a strikeout and a walk, Barzola grounded out to Ball at third for the final out.

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