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Home runs and pitching drive Lady Railsplitters to sweep over Mars Hill

MARS HILL, NC - The Lady Railsplitters used three home runs and a pair of dazzling pitching performances to sweep the Mars Hill Lions in South Atlantic Conference softball action on Wednesday in Mars Hill, North Carolina. Sophomore Samantha Smith (Knoxville, TN) twirled a complete-game, three-hitter in a 3-0 victory in game one, while Junior Amanda Snow (Knoxville, TN) blasted a game-tying home run in the top of the seventh and made a sterling relief effort to key a 5-4 win in eight innings in game two. Lincoln Memorial University (26-15, 12-8 SAC) earned its third SAC series sweep of the 2014 campaign in the process.

Game One - Lincoln Memorial 3, Mars Hill 0
Right-handed hurler Samantha Smith (Knoxville, TN) faced some adversity early as the Lions loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the first, as Shaundee Woosley was plunked by a pitch, Cori Dew singled and Jamie Hockaday was walked. But, Smith wiggled out of the inning unscathed with a pair of bounce outs to third base, settling into what turned out to be a complete-game gem.

Smith spun seven strong innings, shutting out the South Atlantic Conference's third-highest scoring team to improve to 15-8 on the season. The Knoxville, Tennessee native only relinquished three hits and walked two batters, as she allowed only one baserunner past second base following that first-inning jam.

The Lady Railsplitters used a trio of one-run innings to back Smith's stellar outing, and table setter Brianna Mulkey (Kettering, OH) was in the mix for two of LMU's three runs. Mulkey went 2-for-3 with a walk and two runs, as she led off the first inning with a single before scoring on a two-out Mars Hill error, then dropped a leadoff bunt-single in the third to set up a squeeze bunt by Payton Bruce (Maiden, NC).

It was some fifth-inning fireworks that extended Lincoln Memorial's cushion to 3-0, as freshman shortstop Jennifer Moose (Statesville, NC) connected on a one-out, solo home run to straightaway center field. For Moose, it was her second homer of the season and 12th RBI.

That was more than enough run support for Smith, who didn't allow a hit in Mars Hill's final three plate appearances. Aside from Dew's first-inning single, Smith gave up a pair of two-out doubles, each of which was erased with lineouts in the next at-bat.

Along with Mulkey and Moose's production, Kelly Dreier (Knoxville, TN) and Jaclyn Cokeroft (Longwood, FL) contributed singles, while Laura Taricano (Bradenton, FL) nailed a double.

Game Two - Lincoln Memorial 5, Mars Hill 4 (8 innings)
After enduring an 0-for-13 slump with nine strikeouts since April 10, junior Amanda Snow broke out when the Lady Railsplitters needed her most, which was bookended by a dominant relief effort on the mound for the right-hander.

The Lady Railsplitters carried a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the sixth after Kristen McAndrew (Belmont, NC) plated a run with a sacrifice fly out in the top of the second and Kirstin Toole (De Bary, FL) dropped a two-run blast in the third to outnumber a solo home run by Mars Hill's Aleshia Peek in the second frame.

LMU's game-two starter Kirstin Toole kept the Lions mostly in check through five frames, but Mars Hill rallied to take the lead in the sixth. A one-out error at first base gave the Lions some momentum and Brittany Gibson followed with a single back up the box to put runners at the corners. Jamie Booze and Erin Vickery singled in back-to-back at-bats to chase Toole from the game, while Lauren Saller posted the Lions' third-consecutive single to plate the lead-swapping run.

While Snow relinquished Saller's single after relieving Toole, the Knoxville, Tennessee native fanned the next two batters she faced to douse the flame and hold the Lady Railsplitters within one, which proved vital to the closing inning.

After Dreier fouled out and Bruce grounded out, Snow stepped the plate as the Lady Railsplitters' last hope. Despite being mired in a 1-for-17 slump since April 5, Snow slammed the game-tying home run to dead center field. Snow then returned to the mound, where she set the Lions down in 1-2-3 order with two strikeouts to send the game into extras.

The Lady Railsplitters scrounged for the only run they would need in the eighth as Toole was placed at second base by rule of the international tie breaker, moved to second on a Taricano sac bunt and scored on Danae Reed's (Broadway, VA) infield single. Snow closed the door in the bottom of the eighth, striking out two more batters while issuing another 1-2-3 inning.

The book on Snow showed six strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings of relief as she improved to 5-1 on the season, while Toole earned a no decision after tossing 5 1/3 innings with seven hits and four runs allowed.

Toole paced the Lady Railsplitters with a 2-for-4 showing at the plate that included a home run, two RBI and three runs scored. Seven addition batters logged a hit for the Lady Railsplitters, while McAndrew and Reed contributed an RBI apiece.

The Lady Railsplitters head to Wingate, North Carolina on Saturday, April 19 to wrap up the regular season with a South Atlantic Conference twin bill against the Wingate Bulldogs. First pitch in game one is scheduled for 1 p.m. at the WU Softball Complex.

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