CU softball splits with MMC

LEBANON -- Stephanie Gutierrez and Nicole Swann both hit their first career home runs and Cumberland University held off a seventh-inning rally by Martin Methodist College Tuesday, as the Bulldogs took the second game of a doubleheader, 5-4, after dropping the opener, 6-5.

With the win in the nightcap, Cumberland (13-9, 3-1 TranSouth Conference) snapped a 28-game losing skid to the RedHawks. The Bulldogs’ last victory over MMC came in the 2004 TranSouth Championships, with CU taking a 4-2 win in eight innings.

The solo home run for Gutierrez came in the senior’s 217th trip to the plate as a Bulldog, while the two-run shot by Swann was just the third career hit for the sophomore, who has seen limited plate appearances in her two years.

Gutierrez, who was named the Music City Star of the Game, finished the doubleheader 3-for-6 with three RBIs. The Orlando, Fla., native’s long ball broke up Caroline Ezell’s no-hitter in the bottom of the fifth inning. To that point, the MMC pitcher had faced just one over the minimum.

After Victoria Bennett was hit by a pitch for the fifth time this season, Swann sent a rocket shot over the 14-foot center field wall, giving Cumberland a 3-0 lead.

Amber Mayne followed with a hit and got to third when Christina Manis reached on an error, but the inning ended when CaSarah Gilliam grounded into a double play.

CU added three critical insurance runs in the sixth inning but left the bases loaded. Heather James, who reached on a fielder’s choice, and Sarah Murray, who doubled, scored on a two-out, pinch-hit single by Meghan White. White stole both second and third, Swann walked and Mayne was hit by a pitch to load the bases for another pinch-hitter, Tonya Barlow. The junior sent a shot into deep center field that nearly got over the head of Karina de los Santos, who barely made the snowcone catch.

Courtney Maynard (5-2) ran into a little trouble in the top of the seventh, loading the bases with no outs on a single and a pair of walks. Two more singles plated a trio of runs and signaled the end of the day for the freshman.

In six-plus innings gave up four runs on eight hits but worked out of several tough situations. In the first inning, Martin Methodist loaded the bases with one out before the Gordonsville High School product struck out Samantha Queen and induced a groundout to end the threat.

Another strikeout halted another RedHawk scoring chance in the second as Maynard got Megan McKean swinging to end the inning, leaving two runners on base. MMC, which stranded 11 total baserunners, also left two on base in the fifth.

Caity Gray picked up her first save of the season, coming into the game with two on and no one out in the seventh. The junior gave up one hit and struck out one.

Game 1 -- Martin Methodist 6, Cumberland 5: Cumberland scored five runs in the bottom of the first but couldn’t overcome four errors, giving up the lead late.

After Manis led off the first with a bunt single, Gilliam doubled over the head of de los Santos. With one out, James hit it back to the pitcher, who came home trying to get Manis at the plate, but the speedster from Hendersonville made it in safely.

Bennett was plunked to load the bases for Murray, who grounded out to the pitcher, scoring Gilliam. With two outs Lavery reloaded the bases when she took a ball off the helmet. Gutierrez followed with a two-run single through the right side and Courtney White drove in another run with a shot back up the middle.

The 5-0 lead wasn’t enough as MMC scored two unearned runs in the second and plated three more with two outs in the third, including a two-run homer.

A dropped popup on the infield with two outs in the fifth inning scored the game-winner for the RedHawks.

Cumberland travels to league-leading Trevecca Nazarene University Thursday at 4 p.m.