Cincinnati, Ohio – Led by a veteran nucleus, the Transylvania softball team erased a one-run deficit late to top the Franklin College Grizzlies 4-2 in the 2019 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament opening round on Thursday night at Kinder Morgan Softball Complex.
Trailing Franklin 2-1 into the bottom of the fifth inning, seniors Brittany Mumford and Shelby Gambrell each drove in a pair of runs to secure the lead for the first time in the afternoon. Senior Meg Liter put the finishing touch upon the tournament opener in the following inning with a massive shot to left centerfield for a solo home run and a 4-2 lead.
The Pioneers combined their six hits on the day with a strong outing from sophomore pitcher Kameron Bowling, who matched a season-best 10 strikeouts to hold Franklin scoreless over the final four innings of play.
Transylvania now moves ahead to a Friday morning winner's bracket game against the winner of a later game tonight between No. 1 seed Mount St. Joseph and No. 5 seed Anderson at 11:00 a.m. in the double-elimination format tournament. The winner of the Friday morning game will advance straight into Saturday morning's 12:00 p.m. noon championship game with an if-necessary game to follow. The loser of tomorrow's 11:00 a.m. contest will play again on Friday at 3:00 p.m. in an elimination game.
Four days after wrapping up a 14-2 run in conference play and the tournament's number-two seed, the Pioneers faced off with No. 3 seed Franklin in their third meeting of the 2019 year. Rematching one another for the first time in nine days following a pair of 2-0 and 8-5 wins by the Pioneers on the tail end of the regular-season schedule, Transy and Franklin squared off for a shot at remaining in the winner's bracket of the conference tournament.
After a scoreless first inning, the Grizzlies were the first on the scoreboard in the top of the second inning. After Bowling induced the first batter of the inning into a pop fly, the sophomore walked Danielle Wyse and hit the next batter, Abby Hickson to put two aboard.
The Lions' Taylor Bounin drove in one run with an RBI double but the Pioneers evaded further damage when the next batter ran out of the box for the second out; the inning ended when Lexi Gaffney batted the ball along the third-base line and catcher Janelle Hynes deftly tracked down Hickson between third and home to tag her out.
Liter led off the bottom of the second inning with a hit by pitch and Hynes moved the senior over to second base with a sacrifice bunt. With Liter in scoring position, Alyssa Nunn drove in the first postseason RBI of her career with a base hit to centerfield to score Liter and forge a 1-1 tie.
Franklin retook the lead at 2-1 in the following inning on a one-out solo home run, but it would be the final run of the day allowed by Bowling.
The scored remained 2-1 in favor of the Grizzlies until the bottom of the fifth inning when the Pioneers came alive. Taylor Stamps led off the comeback with a one-out infield single and Becca Messing smacked a double into centerfield to put two runners on.
Brittany Mumford grounded out towards second base, allowing Stamps to come across home plate for the tying run. Shelby Gambrell turned the tide in favor of the Pioneers with a well-executed bunt single towards the Lions' pitcher as Messing trotted into home. After five innings, the Pioneers held on to a 3-2 lead.
Bowling allowed the Grizzlies no breathing room as she punched out two batters in the following inning on the way to retiring the side. In the bottom of the sixth, Liter put the game on ice with her shot to left center, giving the Pioneers the momentum and sending them to victory. Bowling struck out two more in the top of the seventh as the last Grizzly threat was quickly quelled and the Pioneers finished up a promising first day at Kinder Morgan.
Stamps was 2-for-2 at the plate while Bowling picked up her 16th win of the season to move to 16-6. Thursday's win was Bowling's 15th complete game of the season.
The Pioneers are aiming for their second HCAC Tournament Championship in the last three seasons. Two straight wins in the conference tournament over the next two days would put the Pioneers in position to achieve the feat again.
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