SALISBURY, N.C. — Topseeded Tusculum College scored the go-ahead run on a double steal in the bottom of the sixth inning to defeat Lincoln Memorial University 2-1 in Thursday’s opening round of the Food Lion South Atlantic Conference Softball Tournament, held at Whitley Field on the campus of Catawba College.
Kelly King tossed a fivehitter to earn the victory for the Pioneers (31-17), who will play the fifth-seeded host Indians on Friday at 11:30 a.m. in a winners bracket game. The eighth-seeded Railsplitters (29-21) are slated to play fourth-seeded Carson-Newman in an elimination game at 9 a.m. on Friday.
King (14-6) struck out seven but walked a season-high five for the Pioneers, allowing just a sixthinning run that momentarily tied the game at 1-1. The Pioneers have won her last five starts, with King earning complete-game wins in four of them.
The decisive run scored in the bottom of the sixth inning, as Kaytlin Stroinski led off with a double, moved to third on a fielder’s choice and scored on a front end of a double steal with Lindsey Umberger. King allowed a leadoff single to the Railsplitters in the seventh, but worked out of trouble by striking out the last two batters of the game.
Lincoln Memorial had the game’s first good scoring opportunity in the top of the second, loading the bases on two walks and a single. However, King got leadoff hitter Brianna Mulkey on a line drive to Stroinski at first to end the inning.
The Railsplitters left runners on first and second in the third, while the Pioneers stranded a runner at second in the third and at first in the fourth. Mulkey singled for LMU in the fifth and moved around to third on a pair of wild pitches, but King fanned Sarah Walz to end the threat.
Tusculum broke through in the bottom of the fifth against Lincoln Memorial starter Samantha Smith as Leah Powell and Alix Kruel hit back-to-back doubles with one out, the latter driving home Powell with the game’s first run.
In the top of the sixth, a walk and a single put runners on first and second with two outs for Kelly Dreier, who lofted an 0-2 pitch into shallow left field for a single which brought in Cierra Mudd with the tying run.
Smith (20-12) allowed five hits and two earned runs for the Railsplitters over six innings of work, striking out four and walking a pair. Dreier led all players by going 2-for-3 with an RBI at the plate for LMU.
Tusculum’s five hits came from five different players, through Stroinski and Kruel each reached by walk in addition to their hits. Both teams also played errorless ball in the contest.