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Pioneers set home run mark in split with Milligan

Pioneers set home run mark in split with Milligan

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- Tusculum and Milligan split a non-conference softball doubleheader Monday night at Red Edmonds Field, as the Buffaloes scored 12 runs in the sixth inning to earn a 16-12 victory in the opener while the Pioneers received a three-hit shutout from Allison Pate in an 8-0 five-inning win in the nightcap.

The Pioneers (27-23), who hit four home runs in the doubleheader to break the school single-season record for homers, will open play in the South Atlantic Conference Championship tournament Thursday at 12:30 p.m. against Lenoir-Rhyne in Hartsville, South Carolina.

Game 1: Milligan 16, Tusculum 12
Milligan let a 4-1 lead slip away as Tusculum scored six runs in the bottom of the fifth, but the Buffaloes responded with 12 runs on seven hits in the top of the sixth to take the lead back for good. Kimberly Robinson and Kacie Skeen each went 3-for-5 with three runs batted in for the Buffaloes, while Kirstan Beaver went 3-for-4 with three RBIs and three runs scored.

The Pioneers hit three home runs in the opener, as Rachel Wisner, Emily Hester and Sammie West all connected with long balls. However, the Buffaloes sent 16 batters to the plate in the sixth to overcome a 7-4 deficit as Beaver and Robinson each went 2-for-2 with three runs batted in during the frame.

Milligan took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first against Tusculum starter Cayla Cecil on a two-run single by Rachel Coffey. The Pioneers cut the margin to 2-1 in the fourth against Buffaloes starter Robinson as Hester was hit by a pitch, and pinch-runner Shelby Griffin scored on a double by Taylor Johnson.

The Buffaloes added two runs in the fifth on an RBI single by Erica Roller and an RBI double by Skeen, but the Pioneers exploded for six runs on seven hits in the bottom of the inning. Wisner led off with a solo home run to cut the deficit to 4-2 and chase Robinson from the circle. Reliever Kassi Butcher came on and allowed a single to Morgan Mahaffey, an error and a bunt single by Michelle Miller to load the bases. Hester then unloaded the bases with a three-run double to give the Pioneers their first lead at 5-4.
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After an infield single by Johnson, Robin Stoner delivered a single to bring home Hester for a 6-4 Tusculum lead. The Pioneers closed out the scoring as Johnson scored on a fielder's choice grounder off the bat of Wisner to take a 7-4 advantage into the sixth.

Following an out, the Buffaloes had their next eight batters reach safely on a walk, an RBI single by Beaver, a two-run double by Robinson, two more walks, a two-run single by Skeen, a two-run double by Ashley Arnold and a hit batter. Leading 9-7, the Buffaloes would add five more runs on a two-run single by Beaver, a steal of home by Kaylee Street, an RBI double by Robinson and an error.

Trailing 16-7, the Pioneers scored two runs in the bottom of the sixth off Robinson as Mahaffey walked and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Miller. Hester then connected for her 10th home run of the season to bring the Pioneers within 16-9. In the seventh, walks by Wisner and Mahaffey preceded a three-run blast by West, her third of the season, to bring the Pioneers within 16-12 with two outs.

Hester finished 3-for-3 with two doubles, a home run and four runs batted in for the Pioneers. Her 10 home runs are the most in the Division II era by a Tusculum player and are one shy of the overall school single-season record of 11 homers set by Carla Loyd in 1991. With 45 runs batted in, Hester is six away from the Division II-era record of 51 RBIs set by Chrissy Wilkison in 2007.

Johnson went 3-for-4 with a double, an RBI and a run scored in game one foe the Pioneers, as Tusculum finished the game with 13 hits. All nine starters had at least one hit in the game for Tusculum, with Mahaffey scoring three runs as she reached base on a single and two walks.

Cecil went five innings for the Pioneers, allowing seven hits and four runs with three strikeouts and a walk. Eliza Davis (7-6) came on in the sixth and took the loss for the Pioneers, with Taylor Plemons working the final 1 2/3 innings. Robinson gave up seven hits and seven runs (Four earned) in six innings for the Buffaloes, striking out five and walking three, while Butcher (4-5) was credited with the win after pitching the fifth.

Game 2: Tusculum 8, Milligan 0
Making her first career start, Pate (3-0) allowed just three hits and struck out seven in the fourth complete game shutout of the season for the Pioneer pitching staff. Pate did not walk a batter and allowed just a double to Skeen in the first and back-to-back singles by Skeen and Coffey in the fourth.

Tusculum jumped to a 6-0 lead in the first on just two hits, along with two walks and two errors by the Milligan defense. West led off with a walk from Buffaloes starter Jaclyn Jenkins, and Taylor Battle was safe on a throwing error on a bunt attempt. Hester then reached on a misplayed fly ball which allowed West to score the first run of the game, with Johnson following with an RBI single for a 2-0 Tusculum lead.

Following a walk and a fielder's choice, Shelby Griffin came through with a single to drive in Johnson for a 3-0 Tusculum lead. Brianna Snyder relieved Jenkins, but saw her first two pitches go for passed balls as Jenna Restivo and Delaney Guerrero scored to push the Pioneers ahead 5-0. Bailey Culler capped the inning with a sacrifice fly to score Griffin and give the Pioneers a 6-0 advantage.

Tusculum tacked on two more runs in the third as Johnson led off with a solo home run to deep left field, her seventh of the season, and Griffin added an RBI double to knock in Restivo for an 8-0 lead. Pate retired the side in order in the fifth to give the Pioneers the victory by run rule.

Johnson and Griffin each went 2-for-2 with two runs batted in for the Pioneers in game two, while Restivo walked twice and scored two runs. Tusculum had just four hits in the game, but made the most of their opportunities as the Pioneers left just one runner on base in the game.

Jenkins (2-5) allowed six runs (all unearned) on two hits and two walks in 1/3 inning for Milligan, followed by Snyder who gave up two hits and two runs in 3 2/3 innings of relief.

The home run by Johnson in the third was the 37th of the season for the Pioneers, breaking the team single-season record of 36 set during the 2015 season. As a team, Tusculum has hit nine home runs in its last four games while averaging more than 11 runs per game over that span.

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