TIGERVILLE, S.C. – Equaling its longest winning streak since April 2013, the King University softball team swept Conference Carolinas foe North Greenville University, taking an extra innings affair in the first game before erasing a 3-0 deficit in the second to secure a 10-game winning streak and move into first place in the league standings.
The Tornado (22-19, 7-3 Conference Carolinas) next take the field on Thursday in a nonconference twinbill against Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, N.C. The Bears sport a 27-8 record and are ranked 14th in the latest national poll. A Tornado win in the first game Thursday would give King its longest winning streak in the NCAA era, which began during the 2011 season.
Tori McComas was the hero for King in the first game, driving in both runs of King's 2-1 extra-innings victory. The game was scoreless going into the seventh inning, with both pitchers combining to allow just three total hits through the first six frames. Cassie Ringstaff led off with an infield single and was moved to second base on a Fallon Thomas sacrifice bunt. After a flyout to right field, McComas drove home Ringstaff with an RBI single to break the scoreless tie.
But the Crusaders (19-12, 7-5 Conference Carolinas) would rally in the bottom of the frame to force extra innings. Morgan Roach led off with a double before a pinch runner was advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt. An RBI fielder's choice tied the score at one before the Tornado were able to end the inning.
Neither team was able to break the tie in the eighth, but a two-out RBI double from McComas plated Ringstaff, who had been placed at second base in accordance with international tiebreak rules, to give King the 2-1 advantage. Hannah Light, who pitched a complete game three-hitter, ended the game with two lineouts to strand the tying and winning runs on the basepaths.
After striking out six batters with just one walk in nine innings of work in the first game, Light ran her record to 21-13 on the season with six innings of work in the second game. She allowed seven runs, all of them earned, on 13 hits, but left with the lead by virtue of a five-run explosion by the Tornado in the top of the fifth inning.
The biggest blow in the fifth came with the bases loaded and two outs in the inning. With two runs already in and King leading 5-3, Morgan Lowe hit a tapper in front of the plate. The Crusaders' catcher was unable to make a play on Hannah Smith coming home and sailed the throw to first base, allowing three runs to score and King to stretch its lead to 8-3. King would add an additional run in the sixth on a solo home run by Thomas, who went 3-for-4 with three runs scored and two batted in during the second game. Amber Walker also went 3-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI.
Morgan Lowe earned the first save of her career with a perfect inning in relief of Light to close out the day's second game. Light totaled eight strikeouts in her 15.0 total innings of work in the doubleheader, giving her 209 strikeouts for the season. Light is ranked third across all three NCAA divisions in total strikeouts, trailing Francis Marion University's Taylor Luff by one strikeout for second place and national leader India Kornegay of USC Aiken by 15 punchouts.
King's doubleheader with Lenoir-Rhyne will begin at 4:00 p.m. on Thursday.