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Late runs key as Pioneers sweep Mars Hill

Late runs key as Pioneers sweep Mars Hill

MARS HILL, N.C. --- Tusculum swept Mars Hill in a South Atlantic Conference softball doubleheader Sunday afternoon at Ponder Field, winning the opener 9-7 in the completion of a suspended game before using a 10-run sixth inning to defeat the Lions 10-5 in game two.

The Pioneers (22-18, 6-6 SAC) will host Anderson in a conference doubleheader Tuesday afternoon at 3 p.m. at Red Edmonds Field, while the Lions fell to 11-25 overall and 4-10 in the SAC with the losses.

Game 1: Tusculum 9, Mars Hill 7
The Pioneers led 7-1 in the sixth before the Lions scored six runs to tie the game at 7-7, but Sammie West delivered a two-run triple in the top of the seventh to give the Pioneers the victory in a game that had been suspended in the third inning on Wednesday due to rain.

West finished 4-for-5 with three runs batted in for the Pioneers, while Taylor Battle went 3-for-3 with two runs scored and two runs batted in. The Pioneers finished with 13 hits in the game, with Delaney Guerrero going 2-for-4 with three runs scored and an RBI.

Prior to the suspension of the game, the Pioneers had taken a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Guerrero reached on an error, allowing pinch-runner Emily White to score. Battle then hit her first career home run to extend the Pioneer lead to 3-0.

In the bottom of the second, the Lions loaded the bases on three walks by Pioneer starter Taylor Plemons, and scored a run on an error before Plemons retired the next two batters.

Following the resumption of the game, the Pioneers added a run in the third on an error to take a 4-1 lead, then tacked on three more runs in the fifth on an RBI double by Rachel Wisner and RBI singles by Guerrero and West.
 
Plemons cruised into the bottom of the sixth inning with a 7-1 lead, but loaded the bases on a single, a hit batter and a walk. Addison Harris then hit a grand slam to pull the Lions within 7-5, and Mars Hill would add two more runs on an RBI single by Casey Stanek and a run-scoring double by Kaleigh Jones to knot the game at 7-7.

In the seventh, Guerrero reached on an infield single with one out and Battle followed with a bunt single. West then drilled a triple to right-center to bring home both runners and give the Pioneers a 9-7 lead. Allison Pate (1-0), who was making her season debut in the circle, retired four of the five batters she faced to seal the win including back-to-back strikeouts to end the game.

Plemons allowed five hits and six walks in 5 1/3 innings for the Pioneers, striking out four and walking five. Sydney Elkin started for Mars Hill and gave up six runs (two earned) on eight hits in four innings, before giving way to Stanek (2-8) who tossed three innings, giving up three runs on five hits with one strikeout and two walks.

At the plate, Stanek and Jones each went 2-for-4 with an RBI for the Lions, who had eight hits as a team and drew six walks from Pioneer pitching. Both teams let several scoring opportunities slip away, as Tusculum left 10 runners on base while Mars Hill stranded nine.

Game 2: Tusculum 10, Mars Hill 5
The Pioneers scored all 10 of their runs in the top of the sixth inning to snap a scoreless tie and finish off the sweep of the Lions. Taylor Johnson knocked in five runs in the inning for the Pioneers, hitting a tiebreaking three-run homer in her first at-bat and adding a two-run single later in the frame. The Pioneers had just four hits in the inning, but drew five walks and were hit by a pitch in registering their first 10-run inning since March 16, 2015 against King.

West went 2-for-4 with a walk and a run scored for the Pioneers, while Jenna Restivo had a two-run triple and Morgan Mahaffey was 2-for-4 with a double, a run scored and an RBI. Tusculum finished the game with eight hits off three Mars Hill pitchers, and also benefitted from seven walks.

The game was a pitcher's duel between the Pioneers' Eliza Davis and the Lions' Shelby Culler through five innings, as Tusculum and Mars Hill had just three hits apiece and no runs entering the sixth. Tusculum's rally started when Michelle Miller was hit by a pitch and Emily Hester walked, setting up Johnson for her fifth home run of the season and a 3-0 Pioneer lead. Tusculum added two runs off reliever Brittany Duncan as Wisner walked, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored on a double by Mahaffey. Morgan Ward then drew a pinch-walk and Guerrero scored on a wild pitch to extend the Tusculum lead to 5-0.

Elkin returned to pitch for the Lions and walked West to load the bases, then walked Hester with two outs for a 6-0 Tusculum lead. Johnson then delivered a two-run single and Restivo followed with a two-run triple to push the Pioneers in front 10-0.

Davis looked to close out the win by run rule in the bottom of the inning, but yielded two singles followed by a three-run home run from Krista Romine that pulled the Lions within 10-3. Emily Crouse had an RBI single and Stanek had an RBI double later in the frame, but Pate came in out of the bullpen to extinguish the threat. Mars Hill put its first two runners on base in the seventh, but Pate got out of trouble on a popup, a fielder's choice and another popup which ended the game.

Davis (5-3) worked 5 1/3 innings for the Pioneers, allowing eight hits and five runs with two strikeouts and no walks. Pate tossed the final 1 2/3 innings, giving up three hits and striking out one. Culler (3-7) allowed three runs on five hits in 6 1/3 innings for Mars Hill, with five strikeouts and three walks, while Duncan and Elkin combined to allow seven runs on three hits and four walks while getting just two outs in the sixth.

Johnson's five runs batted in were a season high for the Pioneer shortstop, while West finished the doubleheader 6-for-9 at the plate with three RBIs. Mars Hill had 11 hits in the game, including two apiece from Cassidy Dahle, Ragan Broome and Romine.

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