LAKELAND, FL – Saturday afternoon's doubleheader between Florida Southern and Embry-Riddle was one of those "where to begin?" days. Where it ended was the Moccasins winning in extra innings on a sacrifice bunt by Makayla Deuberry, combined with a throwing error that allowed the run to score all the way from first. That only happened after the Mocs rallied from three different two-run deficits behind two-run homers from Maddi Conner and Meghan Sexton, with a whole lot of Jadin Dewith all day long. Eventually, both teams got wins in their final at-bats, with Embry-Riddle taking game one, 5-3, and Florida Southern taking the nightcap, 9-8 in eight innings.
Florida Southern (13-17, 5-13 Sunshine State Conference) scored three runs in the first inning of game one to take a 3-0 lead, but Embry-Riddle (16-13, 8-7) tied it with three in the fifth, and won it on a two-run double by Michy Ramos in the top of the seventh. That game was fairly routine compared to what happened next.
In game two, the Moccasins and Eagles put up 17 runs between them, with 23 hits, six walks, three hit batters, and seven errors in a contest that took nearly three hours to complete. There were highs and lows for both teams, but the Mocs came back for the win after trailing 2-0 in the second inning, 5-3 in the fifth, and 8-6 in the sixth. The 16 combined runs were the most taken into an extra inning Florida Southern softball game in 26 years.
HOW IT HAPPENED IN GAME ONE:
- Florida Southern's three-run first inning came after three of the first four Moccasin batters reached base. Dewith walked, Celia Higgins was hit by a pitch, and Jessica Trana doubled to put the Mocs up 1-0. A walk to Alex Mace loaded the bases for Zierra Flodman, who gave the Mocs two more runs with a double into the leftfield corner.
- The score remained 3-0 until Embry-Riddle tied it in the top of the fifth. Held to four base runners through the first four innings by Kelli Gault, the Eagles put their first four hitters of the fifth on base and got three of them in, though only one of those came on a hit. Gault hit Callie Rodriguez to start the inning, but consecutive errors allowed Jamie Mead and Lia Johnson to reach, and Rodriguez scored on the second one. Maggie Scott's single into center scored another run and brought Kristen Beacham into the game before a late throw to the plate on a fielder's choice allowed Johnson to tie the game at 3-3.
- In the top of the seventh, an error put Mariana Pereira on second base to start the inning and an infield hit by Katy Thompson put runners at the corners. That's when Ramos doubled into the right centerfield gap for what proved to be the game-winning hit.
- After giving up three runs, three hits, two walks, and two hit batters in the first two innings, Embry-Riddle pitcher Lisa Hop settled down and limited Florida Southern to two hits and three walks the rest of the way. The Mocs got a single from Sexton and walk by Dewith with two out in the bottom of the sixth, but Hop ended that inning with a strikeout and pitched a 1-2-3 seventh for the win. She struck out nine batters, walked five, and allowed five hits overall as she improved to 8-7.
- The Eagles had a total of seven hits off Gault and Beacham, but only two of their runs were earned. Gault gave up three runs (one earned) on three hits with one strikeout and one walk in 4.0 innings, and Beacham allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits with one strikeout and no walks in 3.0 innings in falling to 0-3.
HOW IT HAPPENED IN GAME TWO:
- In game two, Embry-Riddle scored first by pushing two runs across in the top of the second following back-to-back singles by Savannah Brockenbrough and Rodriguez. A bunt by Mead got the first one in, and Scott's infield single to deep short plated the second. The Eagles might have scored again, but Mace threw Scott out at the plate from right field to end the inning after a hit by Pereira.
- It did not take the Mocs long to tie the game as Conner followed a single by Flodman in the bottom half of the second inning for her second home run of the season. They went ahead 3-2 in the bottom of the third when Dewith singled and came all the way around to score when a sacrifice bunt by Deuberry was mishandled for an error. It was a foreshadowing of things to come much later.
- Embry-Riddle grabbed the lead back, however, in the top of the fourth, which started when Mead was hit by a pitch. After a bunt single by Scott, Hop split the outfielders with a triple to right center, plating two runs to put the Eagles ahead 4-3. A sacrifice fly by Pereira made it 5-3.
- Back came the Moccasins for the second time, with Sexton's leadoff single the spark that started the bottom of the fifth. Eagles pitcher Jayla Jackson got Dewith on a close play at first, which pushed Sexton into scoring position, but when Deuberry hit a ground ball to first on the ensuing at-bat, the Eagles elected to throw to third instead where Sexton slid in safely on the fielder's choice. Sexton would then score on a base hit by Higgins and Deuberry came home on a fly ball by Trana. Samantha Prosser put the Mocs ahead 6-5 with a pinch-hit single.
- Once more the Eagles re-claimed the lead, and once more the Moccasins came back from a two-run deficit to tie the score. All of that happened in the sixth inning. The Eagles took advantage of three Moccasin errors to scored three times in the top half, but a two-run homer by Sexton in the bottom half quickly knotted the score at 8-8.
- The Eagles left Scott at third in the top of the seventh after a leadoff walk, and put together an even bigger threat in the eighth by loading the bases against Aubrey Ehlers with none out. Deuberry, who had already taken one hit away from the Eagles earlier in the game, helped rescue the Mocs again with her glove. The senior shortstop caught a low line drive hit by Mead just off the dirt and quickly fired it to Higgins at third to complete a double play. Sexton then made a leaping catch at second for the final out of the inning.
- A pitching change in the seventh had brought Hop into the game for Embry-Riddle, and she got the first out of the eighth without issue. Dewith, who had caused problems for the Eagles all day, was a different story. The freshman leadoff batter chopped a 3-1 pitch out in front of the plate that bounced too high for anyone to throw her out, and the Mocs had the winning run on base for Deuberry. A bunt that would have moved Dewith into scoring position turned into something much better. When the throw to first hit her in the back and caromed into four territory, Dewith was able to circle the bases and slide into home ahead of the throw from right fielder Lia Johnson for the winning run.
- That play made a winner of Ehlers, who started the game, left after pitching to three batters in the top of the fifth, and returned with two out and the bases loaded in the top of the sixth. She kept it an 8-6 game at that point before Sexton tied the score with her home run in the bottom of the seventh. Altogether, Ehlers pitched 6.2 innings, gave up five runs on 10 hits with two strikeouts and two walks as she improved to 12-8. Beacham pitched 1.1 innings of relief in between, and though she gave up three runs, none of them were earned.
- Hop took the loss in relief, falling to 8-8, though the only run against her in 2.0 innings was unearned. Jackson pitched 6.0 innings, gave up eight runs (seven earned) on nine hits with one strikeout and two walks.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS:
- Prior to the second game of Saturday's doubleheader, the Moccasins had played 41 games at Chris Bellotto Field without hitting a home run over the fence. (Celia Higgins had an inside-the-park home run earlier this year against Nova Southeastern.) Conner and Sexton both went deep to end that streak, however, making them the first Moccasins to leave the yard in a home game on campus since Jordan Alexander hit a three-run shot against Nova Southeastern in a 6-4 win on April 11, 2015. Their only home run in their final season at Barnett Field in 2016 was inside-the-park by Alexander, and the Mocs played the 2017 season at the Auburndale Softball Complex while their new home was under construction.
- The only other time in their 38-year history the Moccasins have ever gone to extra innings with a higher score than 8-8 happened on March 2, 1993. The Mocs tied their game with Campbell that day in the bottom of the seventh at 10-10 before winning 11-10 on an eighth-inning sacrifice fly by Ginger Dudley.
- Florida Southern leads the SSC this year with six extra inning games and is 3-3. It was their second win at home and the first against Flagler also ended with a Deuberry bunt that provided the winning run. In what has become a recurring theme, Deuberry has been directly involved in six straight walk-off wins dating back to 2017.
- The series finale marked the third year in a row Florida Southern and Embry-Riddle have played an extra inning game. The Eagles won 2-1 in 15 innings in 2017, and took a 4-3 decision in eight innings last year.
- Dewith went 4-for-5 with four walks in the doubleheader. Sexton went 3-for-5 with her home run and two RBI, while Deuberry and Flodman each had two hits in the doubleheader. Deuberry now has an eight-game hitting streak during which she's batting .407. Sexton has a five-game hitting streak with a .538 average during that time, and Dewith is hitting .500 during a five-game streak of her own.
- Scott had four hits and one walk in the two games for Embry-Riddle, while Pereira, Rodriguez, and Ramos all had three hits.
- Florida Southern was retired in order just two times during the three-game series, and Embry-Riddle went down in order only once.
Florida Southern travels to Miami Shores for a three-game series at Barry next weekend, March 29-30. Friday night's game begins at 6 p.m., and Saturday's doubleheader begins at 1 p.m.