LAKELAND – Kristen Beacham got the Moccasins through some tough spots early, Jenna Weldon came through at the end, and Lindsey Wilson provided a late-inning spark for the offense, to help give Florida Southern (15-21, 7-17 Sunshine State Conference) a 4-0 win over Saint Leo in game one of their Thursday night doubleheader. The Lions took game two, 8-0 in five innings to give the teams a split.
Wilson's single leading off the bottom of the fifth inning in the opener preceded three walks, and all of them came around to score. One of those, by Makayla Deuberry, came with the bases loaded to force in the go-ahead run, before Celia Higgins drove in two more with a single. Zierra Flodman's sacrifice fly provided the final run.
Beacham and Weldon combined on the shutout, with Weldon pitching the final 2.1 innings for the win. They worked their way around nine hits by Saint Leo, the most in a Florida Southern shutout in 22 years.
The Lions (27-14, 16-8) won the second game by the run-rule, with a two-run single by Grace Spitulski in the second inning putting them up 2-0, and RBI singles by Kacie Kelly and Sarah Pauscher were the big hits during a three-run fifth.
HOW IT HAPPENED IN GAME ONE:
- Much like Wednesday night's first game of the series, Thursday night's first game of the doubleheader had plenty of action in the first four-and-a-half innings, but no scoring. The Moccasins had three hits and a walk, but hit into one double play and left the other three on base. The Lions had five hits in the first two innings, and added three more in the top of the fifth, but hit into two double plays, had one runner caught stealing and another thrown caught in a run-down on an aggressive base-running play at the plate. Even in a scoreless game, both teams had gone to the bullpen by the top of the fifth.
- The Moccasins broke through in the bottom of the fifth after Wilson started the inning with a hard-hit line drive that went off the glove of third baseman Ashley Morris in fair territory and ended up in foul ground for a single. Sadi Avants then walked three of the next four Moccasin batters, the last of which went to Deuberry and forced in Wilson with the first run of the night. Higgins single into right center brought in Maddi Conner and Jadin Dewith, and after Jessica Trana walked to load the bases again, Flodman hit a fly ball to center that plated Deuberry.
- Armed with a 4-0 lead after she had relieved Beacham with two on and two out in the top of the fifth, Weldon pitched two more scoreless innings to complete the Mocs' fourth shutout of the season, but first combined shutout. The nine hits she and Beacham allowed were somewhat deceptive, however. The Lions had five infield singles, including three in the first inning. Those nine hits though were the most given up by the Moccasins in a game they pitched a shutout since May 2, 1997 when they beat North Florida 3-0 to clinch the SSC title that season. Julianne Coleman allowed 10 hits in that game, all of them singles, and did not walk a batter. Beacham walked one and hit a batter Thursday, and Weldon also hit one but did not issue a walk. She still retired seven of the nine batters she faced to get her first win of the season in just her fifth appearance in the circle. She gave up one hit and struck out three after Beacham had allowed eight hits (five of them infield singles) and struck out two in 4.2 innings.
- Saint Leo's best chances to score came in the first two innings when five of its first seven batters had hits. Kacie Kelly and Ashley Morris started the game with infield singles and a bunt by DuBois gave the Lions a third straight hit. Kelly, however, rounded the bag too far at third and was caught in a rundown for the first out. After Beacham struck out Kendyl Crean, Flodman threw Morris out attempting to steal third for the final out of the inning. In the top of the second, the Lions had runners at second and third with one out on another infield hit by Sarah Pauscher and a double by Emily Pilon. Ciara McCoy hit a foul ball that Wilson caught with a diving effort over the line, and the Mocs turned that into a double play when Pauscher was called out on appeal for leaving third base too early in an attempt to score.
- Saint Leo wasted a leadoff walk in the fourth and a leadoff single by McCoy in the fifth too. McCoy was erased on a double play by Deuberry that involved the Moccasin shortstop fielding a ground ball toward the middle, running to the second base bag, and leaping over a sliding McCoy to throw Deanna Falciglia out at first. Kelly and Morris followed with singles after that, bringing Weldon into the game, who struck out DuBois to end the threat.
- While Florida Southern used two pitchers in the shutout, the Lions went through three, with Rachel Bean starting and pitching 2.2 scoreless innings before giving way to Avants, who was charged with all four runs and fell to 6-2. Auria Mounts went the final 1.2 innings. The Moccasins had six hits and five walks against that trio and struck out just twice.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS OF GAME ONE:
- Conner had two of Florida Southern's six hits while going 2-for-2 with a walk. The other hits came from Higgins, Trana, Flodman, and Wilson.
- Dewith had her nine-game hitting streak snapped, though she did walk once.
- Deuberry was involved in nine of the 21 outs with a season-high six assists.
- The game took two hours and 32 minutes to play, even with only four runs scored. It was the Moccasins' longest 7-inning game since 2005 when they played two that were longer. A game against Arkansas-Monticello that was played in Valdosta, Georgia that season took 2:39, and a game at Barry took 2:56. Both games involved 14 walks.
HOW IT HAPPENED IN GAME TWO:
- In game two, Saint Leo went down in order in the top of the first against Aubrey Ehlers, but scored twice in the second. Two walks sandwiched around a fielder's choice on a bunt loaded the bases with none out, but Ehlers got one when Higgins made a nice play on another bunt by Crean. The freshman third baseman came in to scoop it up and flip to Flodman for a force at the plate, but Spitulski followed with a two-run single up the middle to put the Lions ahead.
- Saint Leo scored on an error in the top of the third to make it a 3-0 game and added two more in the fourth against Kelli Gault. Both of them scored on a fielder's choice after McCoy and DuBois had started the inning with infield singles and were bunted into scoring position.
- The Lions picked up three hits and a walk in the top of the fifth when they scored their final three runs on singles by DuBois and Pauscher and a sacrifice fly by Kelly.
- The Moccasins had four hits, three walks, and a hit batter off Sara Neuman and Avants, but left nine runners on base. They had them loaded in the bottom of the second following a single by Alex Mace, an error that put Conner on, and a walk by Taylor Davis. That ended Neuman's night early, but Avants came in to get Mace on a force play at home and Deuberry on a ground ball to third.
- Avants went the final 3.2 innings for the win, upping her record to 7-2 with two hits allowed, two strikeouts and one walk. Ehlers took the loss, falling to 13-11 after giving up three runs (two earned) on three hits with no strikeouts and three walks in 3.0 innings.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS OF GAME TWO:
- Mace had two of Florida Southern's four hits with Deuberry and Higgins supplying the others. Trana had two of their three walks, and Davis, who had a pair of sacrifice bunts in game one, drew the other. Higgins was also hit by a pitch for the eighth time in 29 games this season.
- Saint Leo had 74 stolen bases coming into the doubleheader but did not have any Thursday night with their only attempt resulting in a caught stealing by Flodman. Flodman has thrown out eight of the last 17 runners for a 47 percent clip since March 16. The overall Division II average this season is only 17 percent.
- Florida Southern used all four of its pitchers with Ehlers going 3.0 innings, Gault 0.1, Weldon 1.0, and Beacham 0.2. They combined for nine hits allowed, two strikeouts and four walks.
- DuBois and Pilon each had two hits and one walk for the Lions.
- Saint Leo won last year's South Region championship and reached the semifinals of the Division II National Finals. They were the first team from the Sunshine State Conference to reach that point since Florida Southern in back-to-back seasons in 2006 and 2007.
- Even though the second game went only five innings, it still took two hours and seven minutes to complete.
- Saint Leo had won 16 straight meetings prior to Thursday night's split. The Mocs' last win was a 1-0 decision behind Chelsea Oglevie and an RBI single from Sierra Lacey in 2014 at Saint Leo. The Mocs are 86-40 all-time against the Lions, including 43-16 in Lakeland.
Florida Southern will play a three-game series at Palm Beach Atlantic on Friday, March 12 and Saturday, March 13. Game one is Friday night at 6 p.m., and the Saturday doubleheader begins at 1 p.m.