LAKELAND - Florida Southern concluded its three-game Sunshine State Conference series with Rollins here Friday afternoon by splitting both ends of a doubleheader against the Tars at historic Henley Field.
The Moccasins dropped the first game of Friday's doubleheader 3-2 thanks to a 2-run homer by Alex Miller with two outs in the top of the ninth inning off of sophomore hurler Craig Savage (Apopka, Fla.), but then picked up a 5-1 win in the nightcap thanks a solid pitching performance from junior Brady Arenson (Glenview, Ill.) and a sacrifice fly off the bat of junior right fielder Jhalan Jackson (Winter Haven, Fla.) in the sixth inning. Jackson's sacrifice fly gave the Mocs a lead they wouldn't surrender the rest of the game.
With split, the Mocs won its first SSC series of the season as they improved to 14-16 overall on the season and 4-8 in the league, while Rollins fell to 16-20 overall and 3-12 in the SSC.
"The loss in the first game was frustrating. Craig (Savage) pitched his butt off, but unfortunately gave up the home run that eventually won the game," Moccasin head coach Lance Niekro said. "It kind of stinks to throw a complete game and we couldn't score enough runs for him, but it's important to come in on these doubleheader days when you lose that first game, you can't roll over, which is easy to do after a tough loss."
In Friday's opener, Savage (2-3) pitched a complete game and allowed seven hits and three runs, while walking two and striking out one and was one out away from earning the victory before Miller's game winning two-run homer.
The Mocs led 2-1 heading into the ninth inning of the first game thanks to a lead off solo home run in the second inning by sophomore first baseman Jason Sierra (Sarasota, Fla.) and an RBI double in the sixth by junior second baseman Shawn Sanders (Citra, Fla.).
In the ninth inning, Savage opened the frame by forcing Mike Dolan to foul out to Sierra at first base and then recorded the second out on a grounder by pinch hitter Nick Breen. The third Tar hitter in the inning, pinch hitter Chris Corbett was hit by a pitch and then Miller delieverd the first pitch he saw from Savage over the fence in left field to give the Tars a 3-2 lead.
The Mocs, though, put its lead off hitter on in the bottom of the ninth on a single by Sanders and after Sanders moved to second on a bunt by senior third baseman Chris Dennis (Rockledge, Fla.), Matt Hendricks (6-3) would retire the Mocs No. 4 and No. 5 hitters in order to seal the victory.
Hendricks earned the win in relief of Rollins starter Seth Brenner, who pitched 5.2 innings and allowed eight hits and two run, while walking two and striking out two. Hendricks threw the final 3.1 innings and allowed just three hits and walked two.
The Mocs offense finished with 11 hits in the first game, including a 3-for-3 effort at the plate from junior centerfielder Sam Machonis (Tampa, Fla.). Sanders and Dennis each finished with two hits in the loss.
Miller led the way offensively for Rollins as he was 3-for-4 at the plate with two runs scored and two RBIs.
Meanwhile, in the nightcap, Rollins jumped in front 1-0 in the top of the first inning as they took advantage of a hit and a Moccasin error to score an unearned run off of Arenson, who was the SSC Pitcher of the Week last week.
The Tars 1-0 lead would hold up for the next five innings until the sixth inning as the Mocs offense recorded two hits and scored two runs to take a 2-1 lead. In the inning, Machonis led off with his seventh triple of the season and then scored one batter later on an RBI single by Sanders. After Sanders moved to second on a wild pitch from Brian Auerbach and then moved to third on a groundout by Dennis, the Mocs would score its second run of the game when Jackson delivered a fly ball to left for his team leading 41st RBI.
FSC's 2-1 lead would be more than enough as Arenson had a streak of retiring 17 consecutive Tar batters from the third inning until the eighth inning, before Rollins broke up the streak with a two-out single by Christian Coburn that chased the 6-foot-2 lefthander from the game. The Tars would eventually load the bases thanks to back-to-back singles off of senior Austin Barnett (Lakeland, Fla.), but Barnett would leave the bases loaded as he forced Breen to ground out to end the inning.
"I was pleased with how we came out and pitched in the second game. We had a couple of plays early in the game where the defense was a little shaky, but overall we came out and played well and it was nice to get the win," the Mocs third-year coach said. "Every weekend is a battle in this conference. If we can keep pitching like we did today, our bats are going to come around and we can finish the season on a strong note."
FSC would put the game away in the bottom of the seventh inning as they took advantage of three hits and Rollins error to score three unearned runs and take a 5-1 lead. The first run came home on a sacrifice fly by senior shortstop Casey Eddinger (Crawfordville, Fla.) and the next two runs came home on a 2-run single up the middle by Dennis, who finished with two hits in the nightcap to extend his hit streak to 28 consecutive games, which is tied for the third longest hit streak in school history. Luis Rivera recorded a 28 game hit streak during the 1997 season.
Arenson (4-2) pitched 7.2 innings and allowed three hits and one unearned run, while striking out six and walking none. The victory was the second consecutive for Arenson as he picked up a shutout win last Sunday at Florida Tech.
The Mocs offense recorded 10 hits in the nightcap as Machonis, Sanders, Dennis and Sierra each had two hits in the win. Rollins finished with five hits, including two from Coburn.
Auerbach (2-2) took the loss on the mound for the Tars as he threw 6.1 innings and allowed six hits and three runs (two earned), while striking out three and walking none.
The Mocs will return to action this coming Tuesday, April 7 as they travel to Lake Wales for a 3:30 p.m. non-conference game against Warner. The Mocs picked up a 26-13 win over the Royals in Lakleand on March 17.