AUBURNDALE, FL – One look at the ERAs posted by Florida Southern's Brandi Jones and Embry-Riddle's Illona Andringa, and the hitters had to be thinking it could be a long night. They didn't know the half of it as a classic pitcher's duel went deep into the night and took more than twice as long as a normal game to decide. In the end, after more than four hours of softball, the Eagles used an infield single by Eryn Chester in the top of the 15th inning to score the winning run and defeat the Moccasins 2-1.
By the time the game ended, officially four hours and eight minutes after it started, Andringa was no longer around, but Kassidy Simons had pitched 6.0 scoreless innings of relief and worked out of one tough situation after another to earn the win as she improved to 4-6. Jones was still throwing for the Moccasins (12-9) and even after taking yet another tough loss, she showed once more why she's been one of the league's best pitchers over the first half of the season, if not the country.
Though she briefly left the game in the sixth inning when freshman Kelli Gault pitched to three batters, Jones pitched what really equated to two complete games, even if it's unofficial. The senior went 14.2 innings, scattered 10 hits, all of them singles, did not walk a batter and struck out two. That only told part of the story though. Of the 10 hits she allowed, six never left the dirt, including Chester's fateful single in the 15th that made its way slowly between Jones and a drawn-in shortstop Makayla Deuberry before being picked up further back on the left side of the infield. It was enough to score Hannah Thomas, who had singled into left to start the inning, moved to second on a bunt, and taken third on a wild pitch.
It spoiled a magnificent night for Jones but rewarded Andringa and Simons who were equally effect for the Eagles (11-11) as they held Florida Southern to 12 singles, of which five were the infield variety. They combined for 12 strikeouts and two walks, with Andringa throwing 157 pitches in 9.0 innings and Simons throwing 87. Jones threw 182 by herself but fell to 2-4 with a 1.29 ERA.
The Moccasins scored first by pushing a run across in the bottom of the second inning on a two-out, 3-2 pitch, bases-loaded walk to Shannon Bell. That followed three singles by Alex Mace, Donna Ryan and Desirae Klumpp, with two of those infield hits. Andringa did not walk another batter until she put Bell on again to start the 10th inning, and that brought Simons in to pitch the rest of the game for Embry-Riddle.
The Eagles answered in the top of the third when No. 9 hitter Destiny Carroll reached on a leadoff infield single that trickled over the bag at second, moved to second on a bunt and third on a ground out, and came home on another infield single by Simons, who was playing as the DP at that point. That was the last run for either team for the next 11½ innings.
The Eagles had few chances against Jones during that scoreless stretch, but they did receive two walks from Gault who came in to start the sixth inning. Jones re-entered, left them on base and retired 26 of the next 30 batters over 8.2 innings before the Eagles finally broke through again in the top of the 15th.
Jones was also on the receiving end of the some nice defensive work too. Both Deuberry and third baseman Erica Morrissey had busy nights on the left side of the infield, handling 13 ground balls between them and a total of 20 chances overall. Both continued to play the type of defense they've shown all year, and Jones was busy too with a career-high six assists in the pitcher's circle. First baseman Jessica Trana also made two big defensive stops to keep runners off base, one of them on a throw from Jones in the 13th inning on which she made the catch and a spinning tag on Chester, the Eagles' leadoff hitter who was steaking down the line toward an open bag. Chester had two hits in the game but was denied two others by Morrissey and Trana, who each had two hits of their own.
Bell was also equal to the task from her centerfield position, going a long way into right center for a catch in the sixth inning with two runners on base, and later doing the same thing in left center in the 11th inning after Simons had led off with an ugly infield hit right on the first base line. It was one of three hits Simons had in the game though, matching the total number she allowed in her 6.0 innings as a pitcher.
The Moccasins did have their chances, often provided by four Embry-Riddle errors from the 11th through 14th innings. In fact, the Mocs had the leadoff hitter on base in the eighth, 10th, 11th, and 12th innings, had two base runners in the 12th and 13th innings, and three in the 14th. In the 13th, the Mocs got a single from Mace and an error that put Deuberry on, but Simons got back-to-back ground balls to third to end the threat.
In the 14th, a single by Morrissey and another error put runners at first and second with one out. After a force play at third for the second out of the inning, Leah Pemberton hit a scorching line drive to short that Jayla Jackson went low to try to catch, only to have the ball bounce off her glove and into foul territory. That gave the Mocs an opportunity to win the game, and Zierra Flodman never broke stride rounding third base, but the Eagles recovered and threw her out on a very close play at the plate.
After the Eagles took the lead in the top of the 15th, the Mocs went down in order in the bottom of the inning, though not before Jackson stole a hit from Deuberry by going into the hole and throwing out her opposite number for the second out of the inning.
The 15-inning game was the longest for Florida Southern since a 5-4 win over Eckerd on April 25, 2014, a game in which Jones pitched 10.1 innings of relief. Friday night was also the longest Division II game in the country this year, surpassing a 13-inning game between Concordia (CA) and Hawaii-Hilo that was played last Sunday.
UP NEXT: Florida Southern and Embry-Riddle will play a doubleheader Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m.