WINGATE, N.C. --- Tusculum and Wingate split a South Atlantic Conference softball doubleheader Sunday afternoon, with the host Bulldogs rallying for two runs in the bottom of the seventh for a 6-5 win in the opener and the Pioneers holding on for a 5-3 victory in game two.
The Pioneers (21-18, 5-7 SAC) will be home on Wednesday to face Carson-Newman in a doubleheader that begins at 2 p.m. at Red Edmonds Field.
Game 1: Wingate 6, Tusculum 5
The Pioneers overcame a 4-1 deficit with three runs in the sixth and another in the seventh to take a 5-4 lead, but the Bulldogs scored twice in the bottom of the inning to grab the win. Aubrey Reep knocked in the tying run with a sacrifice fly, and Haley Cashwell scored the winning run on a wild pitch by Pioneer reliever Lizzy Galloway (2-4).
Brittney Franse went 2-for-3 with a double, two stolen bases and two runs scored for the Pioneers, while Emily Hester was 2-for-3 with a run batted in. Hester had given the Pioneers a 5-4 lead in the seventh on an RBI single which drove in Franse with the go-ahead run.
Tusculum loaded the bases against Wingate starter Reep in the first as Delaney Guerrero, Hester and Taylor Johnson drew consecutive one-out walks. However, a popup to Reep in the circle and a groundout kept the Pioneers off the board. The Bulldogs started quickly in the bottom of the first against Pioneer starter Allison Pate as Cashwell led off with a triple and scored on a one-out double from Reep.
Reep carried the 1-0 lead into the fifth, when the Pioneers tied it as Franse doubled with two outs, stole third and scored on an error on a ground ball by Taylor Battle. Wingate responded with three runs in its half of the fifth, on an RBI single by Naomi Sapp and a two-out, two-run home run from Emma Swenson for a 4-1 Bulldog lead.
The Pioneers battled back in the sixth as Guerrero led off with a double and took third on a single by Hester. Johnson then singled home Guerrero to knock Reep out of the game in favor of reliever Rachel Weidner, with Tusculum trailing 4-2. After a strikeout, Sammie West executed a squeeze bunt which drove home pinch-runner Courtney Gibson and cut the Bulldog lead to 4-3. Emma Casey then came through with a double to bring home Johnson and tie the game at 4-4.
Tusculum took the lead in the top of the seventh as Franse led off with a single, stole second with two outs and scored on Hester's single. Galloway, who retired the side in order in the sixth, gave up a single, a bunt single and a walk to load the bases with no outs in the bottom of the seventh. Reep tied the game with a sacrifice fly, and a walk reloaded the bases with two outs. With Taylor Wells batting, Galloway uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Cashwell to score the winning run.
Cashwell finished 3-for-4 with two singles, a triple and three runs scored for Wingate in game one. Reep was 2-for-3 with a double and two runs batted in, while Swenson walked and homered in four plate appearances.
Pate worked five innings for the Pioneers, allowing four earned runs on seven hits with two strikeouts and a walk. Galloway allowed two earned runs on two hits, with a strikeout and two walks in 1 2/3 innings of relief. For Wingate, Reep allowed four runs (two earned) on four hits in five innings, striking out six and walking three. Weidner (2-8) allowed the go-ahead hit in the seventh to the Pioneers but earned the win, allowing a run on three hits with two strikeouts in two innings.
Game 2: Tusculum 5, Wingate 3
Taylor Plemons (7-6) carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning, then allowed three runs in the sixth before recovering to give the Pioneers the split with the Bulldogs. Plemons allowed five hits and two earned runs, striking out three and walking one in her eighth complete game in 14 starts this season.
Tusculum scored a run in the first and four more in the fifth, finishing the game with 10 hits. Franse was 2-for-3 with a run scored, Guerrero finished 2-for-4 with two runs batted in and Battle was 1-for-4 with a run scored for the Pioneers, while West was 1-for-2 with a pair of walks.
Weidner started in the circle for Wingate and allowed a run in the first as Battle reached second on an error and scored on a double by Johnson for a 1-0 Pioneer lead. Tusculum nearly added to its lead in the second as West walked with one out, followed by back-to-back singles by Franse and Brittany Fletcher. Weidner escaped further trouble on a strikeout and a foul out as the Pioneers continued with their 1-0 lead.
In the fourth, the Pioneers exploded for four runs on four hits to go ahead 5-0. West walked with one out, followed by a single from Franse. After a fielder's choice grounder, Battle delivered an RBI single to knock in Franse for a 2-0 Tusculum lead. Guerrero then singled home Fletcher and Battle as the Pioneers went on top 4-0, followed by a double from Hester to bring home Guerrero with the fifth run of the game.
Meanwhile, Plemons retired the first 10 batters she faced until a one-out walk to Sapp in the fourth. Wingate got its first hit in the fifth on a one-out single from Wells, but continued to trail 5-0. With two outs and nobody on in the sixth, the Bulldogs kicked up a rally as Sapp singled and Reep followed with a two-run home run. A single and an error put two runners on for Wells, who singled to drive in Swenson and trim the margin to 5-3. However, Plemons recovered to get the third out and then set down the side in order in the seventh for the win.
Wells went 2-for-3 with an RBI for the Bulldogs, while Sapp was 1-for-2 with a walk and a run scored. Weidner (2-9) pitched 3 2/3 innings for Wingate, allowing seven hits and five runs (four earned) with five strikeouts and two walks. Reep pitched the final 3 1/3 innings in relief, allowing three hits and no runs while striking out one.