FLORENCE, S.C. --- Francis Marion overcame early deficits in each game and three home runs by Emily Hester to sweep a non-conference softball doubleheader from Tusculum University on Sunday, winning by scores of 4-3 and 6-4.
The Pioneers (7-5) were scheduled to visit Winston-Salem State for a non-conference doubleheader on Monday, but the twinbill has been postponed due to wet field conditions. As a result, Tusculum's next doubleheader will be Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. against Erskine at Red Edmonds Field. Francis Marion is 14-6 following the sweep.
Game 1: Francis Marion 4, Tusculum 3
Hester and Grayson Brown hit solo home runs for the Pioneers, but the Patriots scored single runs in each of the first four innings to earn the victory in the opener.
Katelyn Ellard (8-2) struck out nine and allowed five hits to earn the win for Francis Marion, which had Taylor Johnson go 2-for-4 with two doubles and an RBI. Jessica Harney knocked in the go-ahead run with an RBI double in the bottom of the fourth to break a 3-3 tie.
Hester and Brown each went 2-for-4 with a solo home run for the Pioneers, with the other run scoring on an RBI single by Taylor Battle in the second inning.
After Ellard struck out the side in the top of the first inning, the Patriots scored a run in the bottom of the inning off Pioneer starter Taylor Plemons. Johnson led off with a double, and scored on a throwing error on a sacrifice bunt by Angela Buccilli for a quick 1-0 Francis Marion lead.
Tusculum took the lead with a pair of runs in the top of the second. Hester led off with her second home run of the season to tie the game at 1-1, and Alexis Grampp followed by being hit by a pitch. Grampp took second on a passed ball and scored on a single through the hole by Battle for a 2-1 Tusculum lead.
The Patriots tied the score at 2-2 in the bottom of the second as a leadoff walk to Addie May was converted into a two-out RBI double by Johnson. Chelsea Welty homered in the bottom of the third as the Patriots regained the lead at 3-2.
The lead would be short-lived as Brown hit her first home run of the season with one out in the top of the fourth to bring the Pioneers back into a 3-3 tie. Francis Marion went back ahead 4-3 in the bottom of the inning as Taylor DeLeon led off with a double and scored on a two-out double by Harney.
Tusculum threatened in the sixth as the Pioneers loaded the bases on a single by Hester, a walk to Grampp and a single by Brown with one out. However, Ellard wriggled out of the jam on a short fly ball and a popup to preserve the 4-3 lead. Ellard struck out the final two batters in the seventh, the last on her 125th pitch of the game, to close out the victory.
Plemons (2-2) allowed six hits and four runs (three earned) in four innings for the Pioneers, with one strikeout and three walks. Ivee Richesin pitched the final two innings, allowing a hit and a walk but no runs.
Game 2: Francis Marion 6, Tusculum 4
Hester hit solo home runs in the fourth and sixth innings and Emma Casey added a two-run home run in the fourth as Tusculum built a 3-1 lead, but Francis Marion scored three runs in its half of the fourth and two more in the fifth to finish the sweep.
Hester became the first player to hit two home runs in a game since she did at Catawba on April 22, 2017, and is the first Pioneer to hit three homers in a doubleheader since Jenna Restivo at Virginia-Wise on March 9, 2015. Hester has four home runs this season and 20 in her career, which is tied for third in program history with Carla Loyd (1990-93). She is one away from tying Kaytlin Stroinski (21 from 2012-15) for second place behind Brie Griffin, who hit a school-record 29 homers from 2004-07.
Ellard (9-2) entered the game in relief in the fourth inning and struck out three over 3 1/3 innings to earn her second win of the afternoon for the Patriots. Jennie Polak finished 2-for-3 at the plate and drove in a run for Francis Marion, while Grampp and Hester each went 2-for-3 for Tusculum.
The Patriots opened the scoring in the bottom of the first off Pioneer starter Richesin (1-2) as Johnson reached on an error, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a groundout by Harney. Francis Marion starter Janecia Hemingway shut out the Pioneers through three innings, but Tusculum tied it in the fourth on a solo homer by Hester. Grampp was hit by a pitch with two outs, and Casey followed with her first homer of the season to give the Pioneers a 3-1 lead.
Trailing 3-1, the Patriots scored three runs in the bottom of the fourth on an RBI double by Polak and an error on a ground ball that allowed two runs to score. Allison Pate came on in relief of Richesin and induced a double-play grounder to keep the Patriot lead at 4-3. Francis Marion tacked on two runs in the fifth on a sacrifice fly by Jaimie Harney and an RBI single by May.
Hester's second home run of the game cut the Patriots' lead to 6-4 in the sixth and Grampp followed with a double, but Ellard struck out the next two batters and retired the side on a fly ball. In the seventh, Battle singled with one out but back-to-back popups ended the game with Hester on deck.
Richesin pitched 3 1/3 innings for the Pioneers, allowing five hits and four runs (two earned) with a strikeout and a walk. Pate threw the final 2 2/3 innings, giving up two runs on one hit and one walk. For Francis Marion, Hemingway tossed 3 2/3 innings and surrendered four hits and three runs, with a walk and a strikeout.