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Eight-run sixth boosts Tusculum past Wingate 9-4 in SAC elimination game

Eight-run sixth boosts Tusculum past Wingate 9-4 in SAC elimination game

HARTSVILLE, S.C. --- Morgan Mahaffey hit a game-tying three-run home run and Taylor Johnson belted a grand slam to cap an eight-run sixth inning as Tusculum defeated Wingate 9-4 in an elimination game at the South Atlantic Conference Softball Championship tournament Friday morning at Byerly Park.

The seventh-seeded Pioneers (28-24) advance to face the loser of Friday afternoon's winner's bracket game between top-seeded Carson-Newman and fourth-seeded Coker, while the sixth-seeded Bulldogs had their season come to an end with a record of 25-25.

Tusculum trailed 4-1 entering the bottom of the sixth after Wingate hit back-to-back home runs as part of a four-run fourth inning. Johnson led off with a single and was still at first base with two outs when Rachel Wisner was hit by a pitch from Wingate starter Aubrey Reep. Mahaffey then hit an 0-1 pitch over the fence for her first career home run in 193 at-bats to tie the game at 4-4.

The Pioneers did not let up after tying the game, as Robin Stoner drew a pinch-walk on four pitches and Sammie West singled through the left side. Treslyn Reese then came off the bench and dlievered a pinch-hit single to left to bring home Taylor Battle for a 5-4 Tusculum lead. A walk to Emily Hester then loaded the bases for Johnson, who slammed her eighth home run of the season to dead center field to extend the Pioneer lead to 9-4, which reliever Taylor Plemons preserved in the seventh to cap off 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief.

Tusculum got off to a strong start as West hit Reep's second pitch of the game over the fence in left for her fourth home run of the season and a 1-0 Pioneer lead. Tusculum starter Allison Pate held Wingate without a hit for three innings before allowing a leadoff single to Mary Claire Coyne in the fourth.

Following a sacrifice and a strikeout, Emma Swenson delivered a two-out single to cap a 10-pitch at-bat and tie the game at 1-1. Jordan Floyd then hit a 2-2 pitch for her seventh home run of the season to give the Bulldogs a 3-1 lead, which lasted one batter as Misty Doran followed with her eighth long ball of the year to put Wingate on top 4-1.

Reep appeared to be in control in the circle for the Bulldogs, working around a two-out walk to Wisner in the fourth and a leadoff error in the fifth to take a 4-1 lead into the sixth, when the Pioneers exploded four eight runs on five hits, two walks and a hit batter.

West finished 2-for-3 with two runs scored for the Pioneers, who outhit the Bulldogs 8-6 in the game. Johnson was 2-for-4 with her grand slam, while Hester finished 1-for-3 with a double and a walk. Wisner was twice hit by a pitch to set a new Tusculum career record by being hit 21 times, breaking the mark of 20 set by Kaytlin Stroinski from 2012 to 2015.

The three home runs for the Pioneers mark the seventh time this season that Tusculum has hit at least three home runs in a game. Over the last six games, the Pioneers have hit 12 home runs to set a new single-season program record with 40 homers, breaking the mark of 36 set in 2015.

Coyne led the Bulldogs by going 2-for-3 with a run scored, while Doran finished 2-for-2 and was hit by a pitch. Reep (12-12) allowed seven earned runs on seven hits in 5 2/3 innings, with nine strikeouts and two walks.

Plemons (13-13) threw the final 3 1/3 innings of relief to earn the win for the Pioneers, allowing two hits and no runs. Pate worked 3 2/3 innings, allowing four hits and four runs with two strikeouts and a walk.

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