HICKORY, N.C. --- Fifth-ranked Lenoir-Rhyne opened up South Atlantic Conference softball action with a doubleheader sweep of Tusculum on Saturday, winning the opener 5-0 and holding on for an 11-9 win in game two.
The Pioneers (14-14, 0-2 SAC) will be home on Wednesday afternoon to face Brevard in a SAC doubleheader starting at 2 p.m. The Bears (28-5, 2-0 SAC) will host Wingate on Tuesday at 3 p.m. at Bears Field.
Game 1: Lenoir-Rhyne 5, Tusculum 0
The Bears scored two runs in the fourth and three more in the sixth in support of Brandi Parks (16-1), who allowed four hits and struck out six in the victory. Christina Walker, Sarah Kenley and Savannah Davis each went 2-for-3 for the Bears, while Madison Carter was 2-for-4 with two runs batted in.
Both teams threatened in the first inning, as a walk to Emily Hester and a double by Taylor Johnson put Pioneer runners at second and third with two outs, but Parks ended the inning with a strikeout. The Bears loaded the bases against Tusculum starter Taylor Plemons on two walks and a single by Carter, but a strikeout and a fly ball ended the frame.
Lenoir-Rhyne loaded the bases with two outs in the second on back-to-back bunt singles and a walk, but Plemons retired Kenley on a foul popup to keep the game scoreless. The Bears broke through in the fourth on a two-out RBI single by Walker and an RBI double by Kenley to take a 2-0 lead.
In the sixth, Lenoir-Rhyne tacked on three runs on an RBI single by Kenley and a two-run double from Carter, and Parks retired the side in order to finish off the shutout. Hester walked twice for the Pioneers while Michelle Miller, Johnson, Treslyn Reese and Taylor Battle each went 1-for-3 at the plate for Tusculum.
Plemons (7-7) gave up 10 hits and five earned runs with five walks and two strikeout for the Pioneers.
West singled in the first, doubled in the third, had an RBI single in the fourth, singled in the sixth and singled in the seventh for the Pioneers. Tusculum finished the game with a season-high 18 hits, the most for the Pioneers since having 18 hits against Virginia-Wise on March 9, 2015.
Johnson was 4-for-5 with three runs batted in and Delaney Guerrero went 3-for-5 with two runs scored for the Pioneers, who trailed 11-3 after four innings but scored twice in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings and had the go-ahead runs on base when the game ended.
Kenley finished 4-for-4 with two runs batted in and Sydney Landreth hit a three-run home run as part of a nine-run fourth inning for the Bears, who had 16 hits in the game. Davis was 3-for-3 for the Bears and Walker was 2-for-4 with three runs scored in the nightcap.
Tusculum took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first off Lenoir-Rhyne starter Sydney Miller on an RBI single by Johnson, but the Bears came back to tie the game in the bottom of the first against Pioneer starter Eliza Davis on an RBI double by Kenley.
After a scoreless second inning, the Pioneers regained the lead at 2-1 in the third as West led off with a double, moved to third on a bunt single by Guerrero and scored on a fielder's choice grounder by Hester. The Bears came right back in their half of the third as Walker led off with a double and scored on a single by Kenley.
Tusculum went back ahead 3-2 in the fourth as Morgan Ward led off with a single and West delivered a two-out single to score pinch-runner Emily White. However, Lenoir-Rhyne exploded for nine runs on eight hits in its half of the fourth, highlighted by a two-run double by Erin Boone, a three-run home by Landreth and RBI hits by Walker and Cassie Healy.
Trailing 11-3 and down to their final three outs in game two, the Pioneers plated two runs on a ground out by Ward and a throwing error. Tusculum added two more in the sixth as West and Guerrero singled with one out and Hester walked to load the bases for Johnson, who came through with a two-run double to pull the Pioneers within 11-7.
In the seventh, the Pioneers loaded the bases on singles by Michelle Miller, Morgan Mahaffey and West, with an RBI single by Guerrero and a sacrifce fly by Hester cutting the Bears' lead to 11-9. Tusculum loaded the bases with two outs, but Parks closed out the win with a strikeout to earn the victory in relief.
Davis (2-2) allowed eight hits and five runs in 3 1/3 innings for the Pioneers, with Cayla Cecil pitching the final 2 2/3 innings and giving up eight hits and four runs.
Miller worked two innings for the Bears, allowing six hits and two runs, and was followed by Ty Triplett who gave up a run on two hits in 1 2/3 innings. Parks (17-1) tossed the last 3 1/3 innings for the Bears, yielding 10 hits and five earned runs with two strikeouts and a walk.