TALLAHASSEE, FL – Playing in the final games of their college careers, Florida Southern's senior class rose up Thursday afternoon and gave the Moccasins their biggest win of the season. Zierra Flodman's two-run single highlighted a four-run third inning, and Kelli Gault emerged from the bullpen to protect a one-run lead with 3.1 scoreless innings as Florida Southern upset second-ranked West Florida, 4-3 in game one Thursday. In game two, the Moccasins got more than eight shutout innings from another of their senior pitchers, Aubrey Ehlers, but the Argonauts scored in the top of the ninth for a 1-0 win.
HOW IT HAPPENED IN GAME ONE:
- After two scoreless innings to start the game, both teams scored in the third, with the Argonauts (40-8) going up 1-0 in the top half when Rhiannon Sassman, who singled and stole second to start the inning, came home on a two-out throwing error. The Moccasins (16-28) erased the deficit though with four in the bottom half of the third while collecting five hits and taking advantage of a West Florida error that made three of those runs unearned.
- Maddi Conner started the bottom of the third with a single and Jadin Dewith reached safely when her sacrifice bunt was mishandled for an error. A single by senior shortstop Makayla Deuberry loaded the bases, and it took a nice play by Mallory Vining to keep the Mocs from scoring immediately after that. The West Florida second baseman went up the middle to play a ground ball by Jessica Trana and made an off-balance throw to force Conner at the plate. It was a temporary reprieve though as Flodman, the Mocs' senior catcher, singled up the middle to drive in two runs and give the Mocs a 2-1 lead with Deuberry sliding around the catcher for the go-ahead run. Jenna Weldon drove in another with a ground out, and an RBI single by Alex Mace made it 4-1. A double by Meghan Sexton followed, but West Florida pitcher Grace Gilbert got the final out of the inning to keep the score where it was.
- West Florida came back with two in the top of the fourth after Gilbert walked to lead off the inning and Rachel Wright followed with an infield single. That forced Florida Southern's first pitching change of the game, with Kristen Beacham replacing Jenna Weldon. Beacham walked Ashley McNally to load the bases before getting back-to-back outs, but one of those was a fly ball by Mika Garcia that drove in Gilbert. Conner made a diving catch at first base for the second out before a single by Teala Howard brought in Wright to make it 4-3. At that point, head coach Chris Bellotto turned to Gault, who completely shut down the Argonauts the rest of the way.
- Entering the game with a one-run lead and runners at first and third, Gault induced a foul pop-up by Kathleen Smiley to keep Florida Southern in the lead. Over the next three innings, the senior from Bradenton, Florida who is graduating a year early, retired nine of the final 11 Argonaut batters. The only base runners against Gault came on a pair of infield singles by Garcia in the sixth, and Ally Merrill with two out in the seventh. Gault got the final out when Courtney McLellan hit a soft line drive to Sexton that gave the Mocs their first win over a top-two team in 10 years. She struck out three and did not issue a walk.
- Altogether, Weldon, Beacham, and Gault combined to limit West Florida to five hits with five strikeouts and three walks. Gilbert took the loss for West Florida, but gave up only one earned run in a complete game effort. She allowed four runs overall on seven hits with four strikeouts and one walk.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS OF GAME ONE:
- Florida Southern's last win over a team ranked as high as number two in the nation came in 2009 when it defeated No. 2 Alabama-Huntsville 6-5 in another neutral-site game played at Saint Leo. It's the second year in a row, however, the Mocs have beaten a top-five team after they defeated No. 4 Palm Beach Atlantic at home last season.
- Gault beat a nationally-ranked West Florida team for the second year in a row. Her win last year came as a starter when the Mocs beat the Argonauts, who were ranked 15th at the time, 4-2 in Tallahassee.
- Five of Florida Southern's seven hits in the game came in the third inning when they scored all four runs. The others were a second-inning single by Sexton and a sixth-inning single by Mace, giving each of them two hits in the game.
HOW IT HAPPENED IN GAME TWO:
- Ehlers took the ball for Florida Southern in game two matched up against West Florida's Kelsey Sweatt, neither allowed a run until the top of the ninth inning, and there were almost no scoring opportunities through the first seven. During that time, the Argonauts got just one runner into scoring positon against Ehlers, and the Moccasins had none advance to that point against Sweatt.
- Ehlers allowed a leadoff single in the fifth, but saw that runner erased when Weldon turned a double play from third to end the inning. Mika Garcia then doubled leading off the top of the sixth for the Argos' only legitimate scoring threat in the first seven innings, but Ehlers worked around it with two fly balls and a pop up. In the top of the seventh, she got help from senior Annemarie Tracey, who made a sliding catch in short left for one out, and again from Weldon, who picked up a sharp ground ball at third and fired over to Conner for the second out. The Mocs then went to the bullpen for one batter, and it was Gault who came in for the final out of the inning, keeping the game scoreless.
- After the Mocs went down in order in the bottom of the seventh, Ehlers re-entered to pitch in the top of the eighth. The Argos got a one-out double from McNally, but left her at second when Deuberry ranked behind the bag at second to throw out Rachel Wright for the third out. The Mocs then had a chance in the bottom of the eighth when Mace picked up her second hit of the game, but she too was stranded at second.
- West Florida finally broke through in the top of the ninth after a leadoff single and stolen base by Howard, her 40th steal of the season. After moving to third on a long fly ball to right, Howard came home to score on a wild pitch for what proved to be the only run of the game when the Mocs went down in order in the bottom of the ninth.
- Picking up the win for West Florida was Kelsey Sweatt, who improved to 15-2 on the season. She gave up only two hits, both of them singles by Mace, struck out nine and walked no one. Ehlers fell to 13-14 with the loss despite giving up only one run on eight hits in 8.2 innings. She struck out three and did not issue a walk. It was her second 1-0, 9-inning loss of the season.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS OF GAME TWO:
- Mace went 4-for-6 in the doubleheader.
- Flodman completed the entire season without committing a passed ball and made only one error, which came in the first game of the year. It's only the second time in team history the Mocs have gone through a season without a passed ball. The first time was in 2001 with April Elston as their primary catcher. She too committed only one error that season.
- The extra inning game was the eighth of the season for Florida Southern, one short of the team record set in 2001 and the most in the SSC this season.
- Florida Southern ended the regular season with a non-conference game for the first time since 2008 when the Moccasins split a home doubleheader with Valdosta State.