GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The Tusculum softball team opened its South Atlantic Conference schedule Sunday afternoon with a doubleheader loss to 12th-ranked Lenoir-Rhyne at Red Edmonds Field.
The Pioneers (15-12, 0-2 SAC) fell 5-0 in game one and 3-1 in game two to the Bears (25-4, 2-0 SAC), but saw junior outfielder Taylor Battle reach the 100 hit mark for her career with the first of two hits in game two.
Tusculum will remain home to host Mars Hill on Wednesday at 3 p.m. in a doubleheader at Red Edmonds Field.
Game 1: Lenoir-Rhyne 5, Tusculum 0
Brandi Parks (11-3) needed 140 pitches to get through seven innings, but scattered four hits and struck out seven in her 11th complete game and third shutout of the season. The Bears supported Parks by scoring four runs in the top of the third inning, highlighted by a solo home run from Madison Poe and a two-run double by Talon LaClair.
The Bears took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second off Tusculum starter Taylor Plemons as LaClair and Kylee Leonhardt connected for consecutive doubles with one out. In the third, Poe homered with one out to extend the Lenoir-Rhyne lead to 2-0, and a two-out, two-run double by LaClair followed by an RBI single from Leonhardt gave the Bears a 5-0 edge.
Lenoir-Rhyne threatened in the fifth against Tusculum reliever Lizzy Galloway as a walk and two singles loaded the bases with no outs. However, LaClair struck out and Leonhardt grounded into a double play started by third baseman Taylor Johnson to keep the margin at 5-0. In the sixth, the Bears put a leadoff runner on base but the Pioneer defense erased her with a line drive double play started by shortstop Sammie West.
Tusculum's best scoring chance came in the bottom of the fifth as West led off with a triple, but Parks got out of the jam with two foul popups and a line drive to left field, sandwiched around a walk to Morgan Mahaffey. In the sixth, Anna Alloway doubled with one out but was stranded at second, and in the seventh an error and a walk to Mahaffey put two runners on base with two outs before Parks ended the game with a strikeout.
LaClair finished 2-for-3 with two doubles and two runs batted in for the Bears, while Leonhardt was 2-for-3 with a double and two RBIs. Boone walked twice and scored a run for Lenoir-Rhyne, which left six runners on base.
Plemons (5-5) tossed three innings for the Pioneers, allowing five earned runs on six hits with two walks and no strikeouts. Galloway threw four scoreless innings of relief, giving up three hits and two walks but no runs, while striking out two.
Game 2: Lenoir-Rhyne 3, Tusculum 1
Emily Kenley (13-1) came within one out of the Bears' second straight shutout, but a two-out infield single in the bottom of the seventh from Mahaffey drove home Emily Hester with the Pioneers' only run of the game. Kenley struck out seven and did not issue a walk while allowing just five hits and no earned runs.
The Bears opened the scoring in the top of the first inning against Pioneer starter Allison Pate as Savannah Moorefield led off with a single and scored on a one-out double from Boone. Battle opened the bottom of the first inning by collecting her 100th career hit on a single up the middle, but she was stranded at second base.
Lenoir-Rhyne tacked on a run in the fifth as Leonhardt led off with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice. After a groundout, Moorefield doubled to deep center field as pinch-runner Ashten Hinkle scored for a 2-0 Bears lead. Tusculum opened its half of the fifth with a leadoff single from Hester, but a pair of strikeouts from Kenley ended the inning.
The Pioneer defense turned its third double play of the day in the sixth as Boone led off with a walk, but was caught off first base as Hester made a diving catch of a bunt by Madison Carter and flipped to Brittney Franse covering for the out. However, Mackenzie Cates followed with a home run to center field to push the Lenoir-Rhyne lead to 3-0.
Tusculum rallied in the bottom of the sixth as Franse reached on an error and Battle was safe on an infield single. A sacrifice moved the runners into scoring position, but Kenley escaped unscathed on a strikeout and a groundout. In the seventh, Hester led off with a double to center field and moved to third on a passed ball before scoring on Mahaffey's hit. Kenley then finished off her 13th complete game in 14 starts with a groundout to third.
Lenoir-Rhyne finished with nine hits in game two, including 2-for-4 for from Moorefield and Poe and 2-for-3 from Leonhardt. Battle and Hester each went 2-for-3 for the Pioneers off Kenley in the game.
Pate (7-6) worked all seven innings for her seventh complete game in 14 starts, allowing three runs on nine hits with two walks and no strikeouts.