HARROGATE, Tenn. — Sophomore hurler Samantha Smith spun a complete-game two-hitter in the opener of the Lady Railsplitters’ South Atlantic Conference softball double-header with the Tusculum Pioneers to lead Lincoln Memorial to a split on Tuesday. The Lady Railsplitters move to 17-8 overall and 3-1 in SAC play, while the Pioneers — the defending SAC regular-season champs — slip to 15-17 on the year and 1-3 in the league.
In game one Smith picked up her tenth win of the season in dominant fashion, allowing only two hits in a complete-game shutout. The Knoxville native surrendered a hit to the first batter she faced (Carolyn Williamson) and did not relinquish another until Nicole Ball singled with two outs in the seventh. Smith improved to 10-4 overall while striking out four and walking one in seven frames.
Kelly King was nearly as effective on the rubber for the Pioneers, but her defense faltered with four errors that led to three unearned runs. King took the hard-luck loss after allowing only four hits and striking out five in six innings.
The Lady Railsplitters wasted no time establishing command of the opener, rallying for a pair of runs in the bottom of the first. Emilee Solomon led off with a single and came all the way around to score on a throwing error by the Pioneer third baseman while attempting to field Brianna Mulkey’s bunt. Mulkey advanced into scoring position on an Amanda Snow single and scored on a wild pitch.
Tusculum put runners on second and third with one out in the third frame after Paige Sneed walked and Carolyn Williamson reached on an error, but back-to-back ground outs snuffed out that potential rally.
A pair of errors and a walk loaded the bases for the Lady Railsplitters in the bottom of the third, and Meredith Johnson was hit by a pitch to add another run to LMU’s ledger. The Lady Railsplitters extended the lead to 5-0 in the fourth as Jennifer Moose scored on a muffed throw, while a squeeze bunt forced Solomon across the dish.
The five-run cushion would be more than enough for Smith, who fanned three of the six batters she faced in the fifth and sixth frames before closing the door in the seventh.
Solomon was one of four Lady Railsplitters with a hit and she led all players with three runs scored.
The Lady Railsplitters committed two errors in game one that proved inconsequential, but the two LMU miscues in the finale were costly.
An infield error during the first at-bat of the contest put Williamson on first, and Miranda Beeler singled in the next plate appearance to put two runners aboard. It was another throwing error that resulted in the Pioneers’ first two runs of the ballgame as a Kaytlin Stroinski bunt attempt was thrown away at first base.
The Lady Railsplitters accumulated only two combined hits over the next three innings and failed to advance a runner past second base during that stretch, while the Pioneers added to their lead with a solo blast off the bat of Courtney Hutcherson in the top of the fourth.
Trailing 3-0, the Lady Railsplitters’ bats came to life in the home half of the fourth as Snow walked, Kirstin Toole singled and Johnson posted a base hit to load the bases with no outs. After a fielder’s choice, Jaclyn Cokeroft drilled a single into left center to put the Lady Railsplitters on the board. Two batters later, Kelly Dreier reached on fielder’s choice and late scored on a wild pitch to make it 3-2.
The Pioneers added insurance runs as Hutcherson singled home Beeler in the fifth and Tavi Parris popped in Stroinski in the seventh.
The Lady Railsplitters mounted a charge in the bottom of the seventh as Cokeroft and Laura Taricano singled with no outs, but a fly out and a 5-3 double play stunted the rally.
Johnson and Cokeroft paced the Lady Railsplitters with two hits apiece, while Toole, Taricano and Mulkey added base hits. Amanda Snow slipped to 2-1 on the season after allowing five hits and one earned run while striking out five in 3.1 innings. Toole tossed 3.2 innings in relief, allowing six hits and two earned over that span.
The Lady Railsplitters take back to Dorothy Neely Field on Saturday, March 22, hosting Coker for a South Atlantic Conference doubleheader. First pitch in game one is set for 1 p.m. in Harrogate, Tennessee.