Kissimmee, Fla. - Approaching its midweek checkpoint after a grueling start to its spring break gauntlet in Florida, the Transylvania softball team forged a split against its two opponents Wednesday morning.
In their first game of the day, the Pioneers took on the No. 10 nationally ranked and undefeated Rowan University Profs, enduring a 2-1 loss in a quick and hard-fought contest. Transylvania rebounded in its second game of the day against the University of Dubuque Spartans, taking a 2-1 win.
With six of 12 Florida games in the books, the Pioneers stand at 5-1 on their spring break trip, and 6-4 on the season. The Pioneers will take Wednesday off before resuming a two-game-per-day schedule through Saturday, March 18 as the Rebel Spring Games continues.
Taking on one its most anticipated challenges of the week, Transylvania faced off against Rowan bright and early on Wednesday morning; the Pioneers carried a season-best four-game win streak into the contest against Rowan, an established program with a 10-game winning streak to start its season.
From the outset, scoring came at a premium and defensive excellence became the commodity of the day.
Reigning Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Week, junior Renae Morton, stepped into the circle for the Pioneers. Coming off of a 13-strikeout performance the day before, Morton continued her high strikeout output by fanning eight Rowan hitters.
Still, the Profs struck first in the game, taking a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning. The Profs led off the inning with a double, and took advantage of an infield error to plate their runner for a 1-0 lead.
The Pioneers persevered and found their moment in the following inning. Senior infielder Lauren Willett led off the inning with a base hit to right field, and freshman infielder Janette Hynes drew a walk. Two groundouts moved the runners home, and junior pinch runner Destiny Garcia came home to tie the game at 1-all.
Momentum swung back Rowan's direction in the top of the fourth inning when Profs right fielder Morgan Smith hit a solo home run for a 2-1 advantage.
The remainder of the contest became a fast-paced war of attrition. The Pioneers tried to even up the game again in the bottom of the fourth, bringing two runners aboard, but the Profs were able to escape the inning.
Again in the bottom of the fifth, Willett and Hynes reached base but the Pioneers were unable to move runners forward. The Profs allowed just one hit in the final two innings to hold on for its 11th consecutive victory.
Morton took the loss despite issuing one walk against eight strikeouts, bringing her total strikeouts to 21 in her last two starts.
The Pioneers quickly put the early morning loss behind them and set their sights on the University of Dubuque Spartans in their second game of the day. Like their first game against Rowan, scoring once again proved elusive for the Pioneers in the early stages.
It was Dubuque who issued the first salvo, scoring one run in the bottom of the second inning when the Spartans took advantage of a passed ball with a runner on third. However, starting sophomore pitcher Meg Liter would not be fazed and closed out the rest of the inning.
Transylvania and Dubuque traded scoreless innings in the third as Liter completed her final inning of work in the circle, registering four strikeouts and zero earned runs in the process. Fellow sophomore pitcher Jordan Kramer checked in to work the next three innings, yielding few opportunities to Dubuque. From innings four through six, the Spartans mustered just two hits against Kramer while the Pioneers' bats heated up.
The pivotal inning arrived in the fourth for Transylvania as Willett again got things going for the Pioneers. Her leadoff single stoked the Pioneers; sophomore infielder Brittany Mumford caught the hitting bug from Willett as she followed with a single up the middle. A groundout from senior infielder Shelby Bailey moved Mumford and pinch runner Janelle Hynes over to second and third base.
The Spartans were primed to shut down the Pioneers as they came up with their second out of the inning. But Dubuque's infield was unable to handle a ball hit by sophomore pitcher Jenna Stiles and Mumford and Hynes both scored. The two runs were the lone scores of the game by the Pioneers, but it was all they needed as their pitching remained superb.
Morton finished out the game in the circle, making quick work of the Dubuque side in the seventh inning with two strikeouts to gain the save.
Stiles was one of the offensive ringleaders in the win, going 2-for-3 from the plate.
The Pioneers will take Wednesday off to rest up and recharge before returning to play on Thursday. Transylvania will face Illinois College at 11:15 a.m. on Thursday, followed by a 1:30 p.m. meeting with St. Scholastica.
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