Greenville, S.C. – Sophomore Ambree Muller and junior Lauren Collier each belted a home run to lead Furman to an 8-6 victory in game one and a doubleheader split with the South Carolina Gamecocks on Wednesday afternoon in non-conference softball action at Pepsi Stadium. South Carolina held on to claim a 6-5 victory in game two.
With the opener knotted at 5-5 in the bottom of the sixth inning, Sieara Bishop reached base on a one-out single and moved into scoring position when Natalie Clemmons was hit by a Katie Marks' pitch. After both runners advanced a base on Muller's groundout, Lauren Collier hammered a 1-1 pitch over the left-center field fence for her second roundtripper of the season to put the Paladins in front 8-5.
Reliever Shelby Parker hit Kelley Dillon to open the top of the seventh before making way for Paladin closer Meaghan Houston. Following a strikeout, walk and wild pitch, South Carolina plated a run on a grounder to shortstop, but Muller made a diving catch on Dana Hathorn's line drive to left field to end the game and give the Paladins their first win over the Gamecocks since April 17, 2001.
Parker (2-2), who allowed two runs in one 2/3 innings of relief on just one hit, picked up the victory while Houston nailed down her nation-leading fourth save of the season by retiring three of the four batters she faced.
South Carolina (16-6), which entered the twinbill leading the nation by scoring 9.3 runs per game, opened the scoring in the second inning on a two-run single by Samie Garcia off of the glove of Paladin second baseman Taylor Jenkins. Stephanie Field reached base on a leadoff single in the Furman half of the second and scored on Stephanie Spain's RBI single down the left field line before pulling the Paladins even at 2-2 on an RBI single of her own in the bottom of the third.
The Gamecocks used three hits and a Paladin error to plate two runs in the fourth inning and regain the lead at 4-2. Furman provided an immediate answer in the bottom of the fourth as Nikki Legg lined a leadoff single to left field, stole second base and scored on Sieara Bishop's double into the right-center field gap. Two batters later, Muller lined a 2-2 pitch the opposite way down the left field line that cleared the fence for a two-run homer and gave Furman a 5-4 lead.
The Gamecocks pulled even on Kristen Struett's RBI base hit in the top of the sixth to set up Collier's heroics in the bottom half of the frame.
Collier went 1-for-4 at the plate with three RBI and allowed three runs on nine hits in four 1/3 innings in the circle before receiving a no decision. Bishop went 3-for-4 with two runs while Field collected two hits for the Paladins.
Marks (5-3) suffered the loss for South Carolina allowing six runs on six hits in three and 2/3 innings of relief work. She struck out three without issuing a walk.
Garcia went 2-for-4 with two RBI and Chelsea Hawkins finished 3-for-4 to pace the Gamecocks' 10-hit attack.
In the second game, South Carolina's Dana Hathorn clubbed a solo homer in the bottom of the sixth inning to lift the Gamecocks to a 6-5 victory and split of the midweek twinbill.
Furman, playing as the designated road team on its home field, jumped out to an early lead when Clemmons lined a two-run homer to left in the top half of the first inning after Bishop reached on a leadoff walk.
South Carolina evened the game in the bottom of the second when Julie Sarratt drove in Hawkins with an RBI single and pinch runner Brooke Barnhill scored on a passed ball. The Gamecocks took the lead in the next frame on Ansley Ard's two-out single to center field before Shelby Gonzales increased the margin to 5-2 with a two-run homer to left-center.
Collier began the Furman fourth inning with a double down the left field line and Jenkins followed with a base on balls. With runners at first and second, Field's grounder skipped off of the shortstop's glove allowing Collier to score. Junior Sarah Eidt followed with a two-run double into the gap to knot the game at 5-5.
After Hathorn's homer put South Carolina in front, Gamecock reliever Audrey Broyles retired the first two batters in the Paladin half of the seventh. Clemmons reached on a wind-blown double to right field with two outs, but Broyles snagged Muller's line drive up the middle to secure the win for South Carolina.
Broyles (5-2) picked up the win after tossing four shutout innings of relief and allowing only two hits. Ard went 3-for-3 at the plate for South Carolina while Gonzales went 2-for-2.
Collier (4-6) absorbed the loss for Furman despite allowing just one run on three hits in three innings of relief. Clemmons went 2-for-4 with two RBI to lead the Furman offense.
The Paladins (9-12) cap their 12-game homestand this weekend when they host Southern Conference rival Chattanooga in a three-game series at Pepsi Stadium. Saturday's doubleheader is set for 1 p.m. with a single game on Sunday also slated for 1 p.m.
Fans can follow live statistics for all three games and subscribe to live streaming video by logging onto www.FurmanPaladins.com. Live updates are also available on Twitter by following @FurmanPaladins.