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Tusculum sweeps Catawba to close out SAC schedule

Tusculum sweeps Catawba to close out SAC schedule

SALISBURY, N.C. --- Tusculum scored six runs in the first inning of game one, and rallied from a pair of deficits in game two as the Pioneers swept Catawba in a South Atlantic Conference softball doubleheader Saturday afternoon, by scores of 16-3 in five innings and 9-8.

The Pioneers (26-22, 10-10 SAC) will prepare for next week's SAC Championship tournament by hosting Milligan in a non-conference doubleheader Monday at Red Edmonds Field, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Tusculum will be the seventh seed in the SAC tournament and will face second-seeded Lenoir-Rhyne in the opening day of the tournament Thursday at 12:30 p.m. at Byerly Park in Hartsville, South Carolina. Catawba's season ends with an overall record of 11-40 and 2-18 in the SAC.

Game 1: Tusculum 16, Catawba 3 (5 innings)
All nine Tusculum starters had at least one hit and one run scored as the Pioneers scored in each of the game's five innings. Tusculum scored six runs in the first, one in the second, two more in the third, five in the fourth and two in the fifth behind a 15-hit attack that featured home runs from Rachel Wisner and Taylor Battle.

The Pioneers struck early in the first, loading the bases with no outs as Sammie West was hit by a pitch, followed by walks to Michelle Miller and Emily Hester. Taylor Johnson then delivered a two-run single, followed by an RBI single by Jenna Restivo and a sacrifice fly by Delaney Guerrero. Wisner then hit a two-run home run to give the Pioneers a 6-0 lead.

Tusculum went back to work in the second as Miller led off with a single and Hester followed with a double. After a fielder's choice grounder and a foul popup, Guerrero came through with an RBI single to bring home pinch-runner Emily White for a 7-0 Pioneer lead. Catawba got a run in the bottom of the second off Tusculum starter Taylor Plemons on an RBI double by Caroline Turner which cut the deficit to 7-1.

In the third, the Pioneers tacked on two runs as Morgan Mahaffey reached on a single and Battle was safe on an error. Hester then brought home both runners with a two-out single for a 9-1 Tusculum lead. Tusculum scored five more runs in the fourth as Guerrero was safe on an error and Wisner walked. After an RBI double by Mahaffey gave the Pioneers a 10-1 lead, Battle hit a three-run homer to push Tusculum in front 13-1. Tusculum's final run of the inning came on a fielder's choice grounder from Johnson which drove in West.

Catawba scored twice in the bottom of the fourth on a two-run single by Sierrah McCarthy, but Tusculum got the runs back in the top of the fifth as Guerrero and Wisner led off with singles, with the runs coming home on a sacrifice fly by Battle and a double from West.

Six different Pioneers had two hits in the game, with Hester, Guerrero and Wisner each going 2-for-3 with two runs batted in. Mahaffey was 2-for-3 with two runs scored, while Battle drove in four and scored a pair. West was 2-for-4 with two runs scored, while Johnson was 2-for-4 with three RBIs for the Pioneers.

Plemons (12-12) worked four innings for the Pioneers, allowing three runs on six hits with one strikeout and one walk. Cayla Cecil pitched the fifth inning, allowing a hit and no runs. For Catawba, Brooke Walser (8-17) was removed after allowing six runs on three hits and two walks in 1/3 inning, followed by Kaylee Cook who gave up 10 runs (six earned) on 12 hits in 4 2/3 innings with two walks and a strikeout.

Turner finished 2-for-2 with two doubles, a run scored and an RBI for the Indians in game one, while Beth Ann Martin was 2-for-3.

Game 2: Tusculum 9, Catawba 8
Tusculum gave up five runs in the first and three more in the fifth, but regained the lead in the sixth on back-to-back home runs in the sixth from Hester and Johnson. Allison Pate (2-0) worked 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief to earn the win for the Pioneers, while Hester went 3-for-3 with two home runs and three runs scored and Johnson was 3-for-4 with two runs scored.

Tusculum picked up where it left off in the opener, scoring twice in the top of the first inning. With two outs, Hester and Johnson reached on singles, and Treslyn Reese walked to load the bases. Guerrero was safe on an error by Catawba pitcher Walser as Hester and Johnson scored for a 2-0 Pioneer lead.

Catawba came back with five runs in its half of the first, scoring on an RBI double by Katherine Shumaker, an RBI single by Leah Huggins and a three-run double from Grace Holland. Tusculum threatened in the second but left two runners on base, while Catawba left the bases loaded in the third against Cecil, who came on in relief of Eliza Davis in the first.

Still trailing 5-2 entering the fifth, the Pioneers scored five times to regain the lead. Hester led off with a home run, followed by a single by johnson and a pinch-walk by Robin Stoner. Wisner drove home pinch-runner White with a single to cut the deficit to 5-4, and Mahaffey came through with the go-ahead single one batter later. Tusculum's final run came when Battle reached on another error by Walser, which allowed Mahaffey to score for a 7-5 lead.

The Indians responded with three runs in the bottom of the fifth to regain the lead at 8-7, including RBI singles by Taylor Martin and Kristen Stinnard. But, the Pioneers went back on top in the top of the sixth on the back-to-back homers from Hester, her ninth of the season, and Johnson's sixth of the year. Pate then set the side down in order in the sixth, and worked around a two-out single in the seventh to nail down the Pioneers' first sweep at Catawba since 2002.

Cecil allowed three runs (two earned) in four innings of relief for the Pioneers, giving up three hits and walking four while striking out two. Walser (8-18) surrendered nine runs (five earned) in five innings for the Indians, allowing eight hits and four walks with one strikeout before giving way to Cook, who allowed one hit and no runs over the final two innings.

Stinnard and Shumaker had two hits and an RBI for Catawba, which had nine hits in the game. Turner finished 1-for-2 with two walks and two runs scored for the Indians. Wisner was 1-for-2 for the Pioneers, but was hit twice by pitches to increase her career total to 18, two shy of the record of 20 held by Kaytlin Stroinski (2012-15).

Hester's nine home runs are tied with three other players for the most by a Pioneer in the Division II era, and two behind the school single-season record of 11 set in 1991 by Carla Loyd. Hester's 43 runs batted in are the second-most in Tusculum's Division II era and the sixth-most in a season in program history. She has also set a single-season record with 31 walks.

West's double in game one was her 18th of the season, the most in the Tusculum Division II era and the most ever by a Tusculum freshman. She has also scored 38 runs which rank ninth overall in Pioneer history and the third-most since Tusculum joined Division II.

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