March 30, 2014

Tornado push winning streak to eight with sweep of Lees-McRae

BRISTOL, Tenn. – The King University softball team continued its winning ways on Sunday afternoon, picking up a pair of 10-2 wins over Conference Carolinas rival Lees-McRae College that has the Tornado in a tie for second place in the league standings.

Nine days ago, the Tornado (20-19, 5-3 Conference Carolinas) were on a five-game losing streak with a 12-19 overall record and were 1-3 in conference play. But King has rolled off eight consecutive wins behind a series of strong pitching performances from Hannah Light. The Tornado have not given up more than two runs in a contest since a 4-1 loss to Tusculum College on March 13 and are now on their longest winning streak since winning 10 consecutive games in April of 2013.

Light pitched a total of 11 innings in the two games, giving up 15 hits but allowing just four runs. She struck out ten batters without issuing a walk on 185 total pitches in the two games.

The games were marked by a series of defensive miscues by the Bobcats (6-27, 1-5 Conference Carolinas), who committed a total of nine errors that allowed King to score eight unearned runs on the day. Tori McComas and Cassie Ringstaff each had a pair of hits in both contests to lead a Tornado offensive attack that compiled 19 hits against Lees-McRae pitching.

Hannah Smith drove home the Tornado's first runs of the day in first inning. The Tornado had runners on first and second after a pair of walks before Smith got ahead in the count. On a 2-0 offering from Bobcats' starter Charlie Dutton, Smith sent a laser down the left field line that just cleared the fence inside the foul pole for her third home run of the year to give King a 3-0 lead.

After stifling a Lees-McRae rally to only allow one Bobcats' run in the third inning, the Tornado scored six runs in the fourth to break the game wide open, four of which were unearned. The biggest blow came from Samantha Cole, whose single up the middle plated both McComas and Smith for the final runs of the frame that put the Tornado up 9-1. The game ended two innings later on an RBI single to right field by Cheyenne Delffs that scored McComas from third.

The Tornado again used a six-run fourth inning to break open the second game of the day. The Bobcats grabbed a 2-0 lead early on the strength of two perfectly-placed hits that drew chalk on both foul lines. Trailing 2-1 after a single run in the third, the Tornado tied the game on a single by Allie Spell that allowed McComas to score after the fight fielder bobbled the ball attempting to throw home. Samantha Cole's RBI single gave King the lead, then a bases-loaded walk on an eight-pitch at-bat by Ringstaff plated the third run of the inning. Fallon Thomas laced a single to right field that scored two runs, and a misplayed relay throw allowed a third run to score to give King a 7-2 lead.

The King defense also made a series of stellar plays to keep Lees-McRae off the board. After a leadoff single to open the fifth inning, Bobcats' catcher Amanda Decker sent a sharp ground ball back up the middle. But Light speared the ball and started a 1-6-3 double play, then retired the next hitter on three straight swings-and-misses. In the sixth inning, a Lori Fulmer single up the middle looked to be enough to plate Sarah Beth Ashley from second base. But Octavia Lewis-Rand came up throwing from center field and nailed Ashley coming home to preserve the 8-2 Tornado lead. Two runs on three Lees-McRae errors ended the game in the sixth inning.

With its wins on Sunday, King moves above the .500 mark for the first time since being 2-1 after a win over Tusculum on February 8. The Tornado will look to continue its winning streak on Tuesday with a pair of conference games at North Greenville University, with the first pitch slated for 2:00 p.m.