SALISBURY, N.C. --- A three-run rally in the bottom of the ninth gave Catawba College a 6-5 victory over Tusculum University in game two and a sweep of their South Atlantic Conference doubleheader Saturday afternoon at Whitley Field.
The Indians (13-8, 2-0 SAC) won the opener 3-2 after scoring the tying run in the bottom of the fifth and the go-ahead run in the bottom of the sixth.
The Pioneers (12-8, 0-2 SAC) will return home to play Anderson in a SAC doubleheader on Tuesday at 3 p.m. at Red Edmonds Field.
Game 1: Catawba 3, Tusculum 2
Alexis Grampp hit a two-run home run in the top of the first inning to give the Pioneers a quick 2-0 lead, but Tusculum would be shut out on two hits over the final six innings. Taylor Battle went 2-for-3 with a run scored and Grayson Brown had a single to account for Tusculum's four hits in the game.
Catawba also had four hits in the opener, but took advantage of Tusculum errors in both the fifth and sixth to score unearned runs. Allie Baker drove in the tying run on a groundout in the fifth and pinch-hitter Gracie Gibson knocked in the go-ahead run with a double in the sixth.
Tusculum struck quickly in the first as Battle reached on a bunt single with one out and moved to second on a throwing error by Catawba pitcher Preston Ellenberg. With two outs, Grampp hit a 1-2 pitch over the fence for her fourth home run of the season and a 2-0 Pioneer lead. Catawba got one of the runs back in its half of the first against Pioneer starter Taylor Plemons, who issued back-to-back walks with one out before Jordan Dean singled to drive home Taylor Martin and pull the Indians within 2-1.
Both starters were in control for the next three innings before Catawba tied the game in the fifth. A leadoff error put Sierrah McCarthy on second, and she stole third with one out ahead of a grounder by Baker which knotted the game at 2-2.
In the sixth, Dean reached on an error by one out and was replaced by Leah Huggins on a fielder's choice grounder to third. Gibson then pinch-hit and drove a double to left-center which scored Huggins for a 3-2 Catawba lead. Tusculum threatened in the seventh as Grampp drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second with two outs, but reliever Madison Hunter retired the side on a fly ball to center to end the game.
Plemons (3-3) allowed one earned run on four hits with three strikeouts and two walks for the Pioneers, while Ellenberg tossed five innings and yielded two earned runs on four hits while striking out a pair. Hunter (4-2) was perfect over two innings aside from the walk to Grampp to earn the win.
Game 2: Catawba 6, Tusculum 5 (9 innings)
The teams went to extra innings tied 2-2, only to see Tusculum take a 3-2 lead in the eighth on an RBI single by Taylor Johnson. Catawba tied the game on a sacrifice fly by McCarthy to send the game to the ninth deadlocked at 3-3.
The Pioneers scored twice in the ninth on RBI singles by Battle and Emily Hester, and looked to have caught a break as the would-be tying run was thrown out at the plate on an RBI double by Dean. However, Huggins singled home Dean with two outs and later scored on a walk-off single by Carlee Brawley to give the Indians the dramatic win.
Unlike the opener, the offenses were more forceful in game two as Catawba finished with a 12-10 advantage in hits over Tusculum. Battle and Hester each went 3-for-5 to lead the Pioneers at the plate, while Brawley went 3-for-4 and Martin and Dean each had two hits for the Indians. Catawba left 13 runners on base in game two, while Tusculum stranded 10.
Tusculum went up 1-0 in game two as Sammie West and Battle opened the game with bunt singles on consecutive pitches by Catawba starter Brooke Walser. West moved to third on a fielder's choice, and scored on a throwing error. Catawba tied the game in the second against Pioneer starter Ivee Richesin as Huggins led off with a walk and scored on a single by Grace Holland.
The Pioneers regained the lead in the third as Hester singled with two outs and came around on an RBI double by Grampp. The 2-1 advantage held until the fifth, when back-to-back errors set up a sacrifice fly by Martin which tied the game at 2-2. Catawba threatened to take the lead in the sixth as the Indians had runners at first and third with one out, but Pioneer reliever Allison Pate came through with a strikeout and a groundout to keep the game tied at 2-2.
Tusculum took the lead 3-2 in the top of the eighth as Hester began the inning on second in the international tiebreaker, moved to third on a groundout and scored on a single by Johnson. Catawba came back in its half of the eighth as a hit batter and a walk loaded the bases for McCarthy, whose fly ball to center drove in Huggins with the tying run.
In the ninth, the Pioneers went back on top as Battle singled home pinch-runner Morgan Mahaffey with two outs, and Hester followed with a single that brought in West to give the Pioneers a 5-3 lead. In the bottom of the ninth, Catawba put runners at first and third with nobody out, but the Pioneer defense was able to get the first out at home on a grounder. Dean then doubled to left-center to bring in Sydney Goertzen, but Martin was cut down at the plate by Grampp to keep the Pioneers ahead 5-4 with two outs. Huggins then singled home Dean with the tying run, stole second and scored the winning run on a single to left by Brawley.
Walser (4-3) went all nine innings for the Indians, allowing two earned runs and striking out three while issuing three walks. Richesin tossed four-plus innings for the Pioneers, giving up one earned run and five hits with a walk and a strikeout. Pate (4-3) threw the final 4 2/3 innings for Tusculum giving up four runs (three earned) on seven hits with two walks and a strikeout.