GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The Tusculum University softball team mounted two late-inning rallies to complete a South Atlantic Conference doubleheader sweep over visiting Newberry College Saturday afternoon at Red Edmonds Field.
In the opener, Tusculum overcame a 4-0 deficit by tying the game with four runs in the sixth and won it in the bottom of the eighth on Taylor Johnson's walk-off sacrifice fly as the Pioneers prevailed 5-4. In the second game, Newberry jumped out to a 5-0 lead but the Pioneers scored twice in the fifth and erupted for five runs in the sixth inning including Emily Hester's three-run homer as TU won the night-cap 7-5.
With the wins, the Pioneers improve to 15-9 overall and even their SAC record at 3-3. TU also posts its first doubleheader sweep over the Wolves (20-10, 2-4 SAC) since 2014 and its first home sweep over Newberry since the Pioneers' SAC Championship season in 2013.
Hester finished the day with four hits including two doubles and her team-leading seventh home run of the season and second of the week. Today's homer was the 23rd of her career which ranks her second in program history and just six off the school record 29 hit by Brie Griffin from 2004-2007.
Game 1: Tusculum 5, Newberry 4 (8 innings)
Hester went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles and Johnson won the game with her walk-off sacrifice fly as the Pioneers overcame a four-run deficit to win 5-4 in eight innings.
Tusculum starter Ivee Richesin picked up the win as she went 7.2 innings, scattered nine hits, allowed four runs (2 earned) and posted three strikeouts to improve to 6-2 on the year.
The Wolves loaded the bases with no outs in the first inning thanks to an error and back-to-back singles. Newberry's Haley Simonds lifted a fly ball to right field as TU's Alexis Grampp made the catch and fired a strike catcher Emma Casey who tagged out Paige Meyer at the plate for a double play. But Hannah Davis came through for the visitors with a two-run, two-out single as the Wolves led 2-0.
Meanwhile, Newberry starting pitcher Alyssa Ball stymied the Pioneers, holding TU hitless through the first three frames.
Hester broke up the no-hitter in fourth inning with a one-out double. The next two Pioneers walked to load the bases, but Ball got out of the jam as Johnson grounded out into a fielder's choice with the force out at home plate and Casey fouled out to end the inning.
Newberry added two more runs in the fifth on Davis' two-run double to center field as the Wolves led 4-0.
In the bottom of the sixth, led off the inning with her fourth triple of the year. Hester followed with her second straight double as TU plated its first run of the game and trailed 4-1. A walk to Grampp put runners at first and second. Grayson Brown grounded sharply to the left side as Hester was forced out at third. Johnson reached on an infield single as to load the bases again as Casey responded with a two-run single to make it a 4-3 game.
Ball was replaced in the circle by Chelsey Cunningham to face pinch-hitter Anna Alloway. Alloway came to bat and singled up the middle to bring in the game-tying run. Alloway moved to second when Brittney Franse was hit by a pitch, but Cunningham ended the inning when Sammie West line into an inning-ending double play.
In the top of the eighth inning, using the international tie-breaker, pinch runner Tori Caldwell was placed at second as TU pitcher Ashley Scozzari took over for Richesin in the circle. Scozzari got a strikeout for the first out of the inning, but Julia Bomhardt hit a bunt single to put runners on the corners and Reagan Glanz drew a walk to load the bases with one out. Richesin re-entered the line-up for Tusculum and got a huge strikeout of pinch-hitter Abigail Valentine and a Cunningham ground out to end the inning.
Grampp was placed at second and Brown bunted her over to third base. Johnson stepped up and drove a fly ball down the right field line which was deep enough for Grampp to tag up and scamper home with the game-winning run.
Battle's triple is the 15th of her career which ties her for third in the TU record book with Carla Loyd (1990-1993) and Lindsey Umberger (2011-2013). Battle is six triples off the school-record 21 posted by Beth Howard from 1992-1995.
Game 2: Tusculum 7, Newberry 5
Hester went 2-for-3 with four RBI including her dramatic three-run homer in the sixth inning as the Pioneers rallied to a 7-5 win in Saturday's second game.
The Pioneers could only muster four hits, but TU worked Newberry pitchers for nine walks including five against starter Selice Daley.
Similar to the first game, Newberry jumped out to an early lead scoring twice in the second inning and three times in the fifth to take a 5-0 advantage.
Ashley Willis hit a two-out double in the second which was followed by Glanz's two-run homer over the left field fence and a 2-0 lead.
The Wolves looked to add on more in the third inning with another two-out rally as Simonds drew a walk and Davis and McKenzie Barneycastle hit back-to-back singles to load the bases. But TU starter Taylor Plemons got out of the jam with an infield pop-up to keep the Pioneers within two.
Meanwhile, Daley was pitching a gem for the Wolves as he held the Pioneers hitless through the first four innings limiting TU to three baserunners on two walks and a hit batter.
In the top of the fifth, Newberry tacked on three more runs to take a 5-0 lead.
Daley ran into control problems in the fifth as she walked Casey and later Franse after a TU fly out. West bunted the runners into scoring position. A two-out walk to Taylor Battle forced the Wolves to take Daley out of the game and was relieved by Cunningham. A passed ball brought home pinch-runner Emily White from third base with TU's first run of the contest. Hester responded with a RBI single to make it a 5-2 game.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Casey led off with a walk and moved to second when Morgan Mahaffey reached on an error. The miscue would prove costly as Franse singled up the middle to load the bases. After a fly out, Battle stepped up and hit a two-run single to left field to bring in Casey and Mahaffey to make it a 5-4 contest. With two runners aboard, Hester homered to left field to give the Pioneers a 7-5 lead.
In the seventh with TU pitcher Allison Pate entering her second inning of relief, Natalie Willis led off with a single to center. But while Simonds was at the plate, she got caught in a rundown between first and second for the first out of the inning. Pate got an infield pop-up for the second out. Davis doubled to right field to bring the tying run to the plate once again. But Barneycastle grounded out to West at shortstop to end the game.
Pate pitched two shutout innings to improve her record to 5-3 on the season as she scattered two hits, one walk and a strikeout.
Tusculum returns to action on Wednesday as the Pioneers travel to Mars Hill University for a 2 p.m. SAC doubleheader.