OXFORD, Ala. --- The Tennessee State softball team outlasted Loyola for a 12-inning victory to earn a split for the second consecutive day at the Leon Smith Classic. The Tigers scored two runs in the top of the 12th inning to gain a 3-1 win over the Ramblers, before falling to Valparaiso 4-2 in the nightcap. The split moved the Tigers to 6-15 on the season.
A Rambler miscue in the final inning of game one led to Abi Stephens crossing home plate to give the Tigers a 2-1 lead. On the play, Selena Crafton advanced to second base, giving TSU another runner in scoring position with no outs. An infield single by Courtney Gearlds, along with her 11th stolen base of the season, gave the Big Blue runners at second and third with no outs. After a walk to Lauren Woodard to load the bases, Danica Gleason came through with a ground ball to plate Crafton for the 3-1 advantage.
The Ramblers threatened in bottom half of the inning as a Tiger error aided to put runners on second and third with no outs, bring up the top of the batting order. Tiger reliever Lauren Powell forced an infield pop up to the Rambler’s leadoff hitter and a ground ball back to the circle, retiring the first two batters without advancement.
Before the Tigers could claim the victory, Powell would have to face off against Loyola’s 6-foot catcher, Katie Kasubke, who came into the weekend with five doubles, three home runs and 17 RBI, while batting .348. The sophomore pitcher would get Kasubke to lift a ball into right field, allowing Patton Akers to track down the fly ball to secure the win.
Powell (3-5) earned the win after pitching seven complete innings allowing a run on three hits, while hitting three batters. The lone run came in the seventh inning as Loyola used a leadoff single, a stolen base and a one out RBI single to even the game at 1-1 and send the game into extra innings.
Powell relieved Amanda Cabrera who delivered a masterful performance in her first career start. The freshman worked the first 3.2 innings allowing a walk before surrendering the Rambler’s first hit of the game. Cabrera faced her only threat in the fifth inning as Loyola put two runners on base with a hit by pitch and a single. The Wildwood, Mo. product answered the call retiring the next two batters before leaving with a five-inning, two-hit scoreless outing.
On the day the Tiger pitching staff forced the Ramblers to leave 17 runners on base, opposed to the seven the Tigers would strand in their offensive opportunities.
TSU scored the first run of the game in the second inning as Sarah Snell reached on a bunt single and moved to third on a throwing error after a stolen base. Kim Trice followed with a single to left to chase home Snell for the early 1-0 lead.
In game two, the Tigers jumped on the scoreboard first with a pair of runs in the second inning. Snell opened the inning with her sixth double of the season and advanced 60 feet on an Erica O’Kane single. After Kasey Cox walked to load the bases, Crafton drove a ball into centerfield, driving in Snell and O’Kane for a 2-0 lead.
Valparaiso would answer with a pair of runs of their own in the bottom half of the frame off O’Kane to even the score at 2-2. The Crusaders took the lead with a run in the third off the Tiger starter before scoring an insurance run in the fourth off reliever Lauren Woodard.
TSU, who collected four hits in the first two innings, was held to two hits and two walks over the final five innings. Valapraiso reliever, Mackenzie Grossman closed out the game tossing the final 3.2 innings and retiring the final 11 batters.
O’Kane fell to 0-2 after suffering the loss, while Woodard worked the final three innings allowing an unearned run on three hits.
On the day, Courtney Gearlds picked up three hits moving her into fourth on TSU’s career hit list with 143. The senior outfielder surpassed Shannon Hicks (2001-04) and is five hits behind Brittany Webb’s (2008-11) 148 hits.
TSU will close out tournament play on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. with a matchup versus Samford.