GREENWOOD, S.C. --- The Tusculum University softball team picked up their first loss of 2020 in the last game of the night against hosting Lander. The Pioneers went into the contest 5-0 after earning a close win over Belmont Abbey, their first opponent of the tournament.
The Pioneers (5-1) will open Saturday in a 10 a.m. contest with No. 5 Young Harris and close out their time in South Carolina with a 2 p.m. showdown against Erskine, both taking place in Due West.
The Tusculum bats had a solid day, collecting four doubles, two homeruns, and eight RBI.
Game 1: Tusculum 7, Belmont Abbey 5
A strong offensive start placed the Pioneers in the driver's seat in route to the defeat of the Crusaders. A pair of RBI each from Anna Alloway, Alexis Grampp, and Brittney Franse, alongside Taylor Johnson's run-scoring single, powered Tusculum to their fifth win of the year.
Tusculum started off fast against Belmont Abbey. Batting leadoff, Alloway was hit by a pitch and made her way to first. Grampp capitalized with a two-run homer to centerfield.
Three more runs were tacked on in the second inning for the Pioneers. Chloe Freischmidt doubled to kick things off and advanced to third on a pop up by Caitlyn Brinkley. Kristen Gass drew her first of three walks in the contest to get onto the base-path. Franse launched a double to score both runners. Alloway enabled Franse to return home with a RBI single.
Belmont Abbey made a dent in the 5-0 Tusculum lead with their next opportunity. A two-out single by Melissa Neyhouse brought Payton Whitley to the plate, who knocked a double to right field to score her teammate. As the next batter, Morgan Smith singled in the opposite direction to score Whitley.
The top of the fourth was full of singles. Katie Allison instigated the spree and was replaced by Kelkcee Fulton as a pinch runner. Fulton stole second and was driven in by Cameron Cooper and Brianna Embler singles.
Johnson stretched the two-run lead to three in the fourth inning with a single following Gass's walk and Grampp's single.
Alloway led off the bottom of the sixth with a solo shot to left field, elevating the Pioneers to the seven-run precipice.
Looking to extend the contest, Whitley singled with two outs in the seventh, followed up by a Smith two-run homerun to left. Delilah Malczewski closed out her first Pioneer win by getting Alannah Bowne to strike out looking.
In the game, the Pioneers never struck out, drew three walks (all by Gass), and collected eight hits. Malczewski pitched 3.2 innings in relief to pick up the victory, allowing two runs on three hits and struck out four Crusaders.
Game 2: Lander 7, Tusculum 1
The Pioneers were unable to combat big late innings by Lander, leaving 12 runners on base in the season's first loss. Grayson Brown was outstanding in the batter's box by drawing three walks. She also doubled to left and later scored Tusculum's lone run in the contest.
Lander scored often, with at least one run coming in four of their six innings of opportunity.
The second frame saw the first damage for Tusculum. With two runners in scoring position, Madison Ackerman reached on a fielder's choice, allowing Delaney Guerrero to cross the plate.
Guerrero scored once again in the fourth to make the score 2-0 for the Bearcats, courtesy of an Alana Frye infield groundout.
A big separation occurred in the fifth. The shortstop Morgan Watson blasted a three-run homerun over the centerfield wall, scoring Sydney Grimes and Shannon Antonini on the play.
The final blow against the Pioneers was an Antonini two-run homer to left.
Tusculum was able to crack the scoreboard in the top of the seventh. Brown notched her double to left and a Sammie West single advanced her to third. Freischmidt grounded out to the shortstop, allowing Brown to scamper home.