HICKORY, N.C. --- The Tusculum College softball team rallied from a five-run deficit in the second game to complete a South Atlantic Conference sweep of host Lenoir-Rhyne University Saturday afternoon at Bears Field. Tusculum won the first game 3-2 and captured the night-cap, 11-8.
The Pioneers (21-21, 9-13 SAC) hit five home runs on the day, while pitcher Rachel Medley picked up winning decisions in both games as Tusculum swept a doubleheader against the Bears (32-17, 12-10 SAC) for the first time in program history.
TC has won six of its last eight games to close out the regular season, but more importantly, keeps its SAC postseason hopes alive. The Pioneers can claim the eighth and final spot for next week's SAC Tournament if Brevard College sweeps Sunday's two games at Coker College. Coker is currently eighth in the league standings with a 9-11 SAC mark. Tusculum has the tiebreaker with last Saturday's home sweep over the Cobras.
Tusculum has hit 36 home runs this year, which is a new school single-season record, breaking the previous mark of 30 clubbed by the 2007 squad.
Game 1: Tusculum 3, Lenoir-Rhyne 2 (Box Score)
Bailey Culler and Kaytlin Stroinski each homered, while Medley pitched seven strong innings in leading Tusculum to a 3-2 victory over Lenoir-Rhyne in Saturday's opener.
Tusculum got on the scoreboard first when Nicole Ball drew a two-out walk and Culler followed with her two-run blast to right center for a 2-0 lead.
The Bears answered with a run in the bottom half of the inning as Jordin Phillips reached on a lead-off single and moved to second on a bunt. Madison Carter singled to put runners on the corners with one out. Medley struck out Katie Carpenter for the second out, but Phillips would score LR's first run on a wild pitch as the Bears trailed 2-1.
The score would remain that way until the top of the sixth when Stroinski led off the frame with a solo blast over the left field fence and a 3-1 advantage. It was her seventh round-tripper of the season and 21st of her career, moving her into sole possession of second place in TC softball history.
Lenoir-Rhyne threatened in the seventh as Phillips trimmed the deficit to 3-2 with her two-out RBI single. But Medley closed the door getting Ashley Oliver to fly out to end the game.
Medley went the distance as she scattered seven hits, allowed two runs, walked three and struck out four. L-R starter Maryann Hoskins suffered the loss, while allowing four hits, three runs (two earned), two walks and recorded nine strikeouts.
Game 2: Tusculum 11, Lenoir-Rhyne 8 (Box Score)
Tusculum fought off a 6-1 deficit and scored 10 runs over the last four innings to defeat Lenoir-Rhyne 11-8 and complete the sweep.
The Pioneers pounded out 17 hits, including Brooke Rhodes' 4-for-5 performance and Robin Stoner's 2-for-3 effort, including her three-run homer in TC's four-run, fifth inning to spark the rally.
The Bears scored four times in the second inning to take its first lead of the afternoon. TC scratched out a run in the top of the third to trim the deficit to 4-1. LR answered with a pair in the bottom of the frame with both scoring tallies coming on Ashley Oliver's two-run homer, her team-leading ninth of the season.
Trailing 6-1, Tusculum opened the fourth inning with five consecutive hits, including Jenna Restivo's single and an Alix Kruel double. Stoner followed with her three-run shot over the center field fence to trim the LR lead to 6-4. Rhodes followed with a single, moved to second on Carolyn Williamson's bunt single. Stroinski moved the runners over with her bunt and Reese followed with her one-out single to drive in Rhodes as the Pioneers trailed 6-5.
Medley came out of the bullpen in relief and surrendered a pair of hits in the fourth, including a two-out double to put runners at second and third. But the senior got out of the jam with a ground out to end the inning.
Kruel tied the game at 6-6 with her third home run of the year. Stoner and Rhodes followed with consecutive singles and moved to second and third on a Williamson bunt. Stroinski drove in the go-ahead run with her fly out to center field, bringing home Stoner. Reese homered to left field to add two more runs for a 9-6 TC lead. Ball capped off the five-run frame with her RBI double, her 39th of her career, which is seventh-most in program history.
L-R scored a run in the fifth, but Tusculum answered with one of its own in the sixth on a Rhodes' one-out single.
The Bears added a run in the bottom of the seventh, but it would not be enough as Medley got an infield pop up to end the game.
Medley (10-11) pitched four innings, allowed two runs on six hits, walked one and struck out one. Hoskins, who came on in relief in the fifth inning, suffered the loss.
Kruel finished the game going 2-for-3 with three runs scored, while Ball also tallied a pair of hits with a RBI in the victory.
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