SAINT LEO, Fla. – The Saint Leo softball team (18-9, 3-3 SSC) ended their Sunshine State Conference series against the University of Tampa Spartans (15-5) with a two-game split, Saturday afternoon from University Stadium. The Lions fell to the Spartans in game one of the doubleheader by a score of 7-1, just before defeating the visiting Spartans 8-3.
Freshman Alana Tabel took the mound in the first game for the Lions, tossing four innings before sophomore Ashley Ehlers and junior Sarah Steiner came in for relief duties. The Saint Leo pitching staff combined for just one strikeout in the contest, while allowing four walks, eight hits, and one homerun.
Mirroring the scoring of yesterday's contest, the Spartans were the first to jump on the board, scoring one run in the top of the second inning thanks to fundamental hitting. Tampa's Stacy Piagno started the inning with a single through the left side, and was sacrifice bunted over to second base by Katlyn Raatz to give the Spartans a runner in scoring position. One batter later, Tampa's Kandi Kuder singled to right-centerfield and scored Piagno from second, giving the Spartans a one-run lead.
With the Lions unable to answer back, the Spartans tacked on two more runs in the top of the fourth inning, when first baseman Meagan Burke walked to start off the inning and was sacrifice bunted over to second base by Tampa's Taylor Storey. With one out and one runner on, Piagno sent a double screaming to right field, scoring Burke and taking a two-run lead. After Piagno advanced to third on a wild pitch, Raatz then sacrifice flied out to centerfield, which allowed Piagno to take home safely and put the Spartans up, 3-0.
The Lions were able to put one run on the board in the bottom of the fourth inning, but that would be their only scoring play of the game. Junior Chelsey Steedley led off the inning with a one-out double to centerfield. Sophomore Kelsey LaNeave then sent a single through the right side, and Steedley's speed allowed her to take home plate on the play.
Senior Megan Still started the game in the circle for the Lions, throwing four solid innings before allowing freshman Alana Tabel to come in and collect the save. The senior/freshman duo collected two strikeouts and walked none in the contest, while allowing only six Tampa hits.
The Lions certainly came out swinging in the second game of the Saturday doubleheader, jumping on the board first and collecting five runs in the bottom of the first inning alone.
It was sophomore McKenzie Burns who led off for the Lions, taking a walk and first base just before stealing second base. Freshman Tiffany Thompson then collected an infield single which allowed Burns to take third base, followed by a steal from Thompson to give the Lions two runners in scoring position. On the next play, senior Rachelle Gremo sent a single up the middle which scored Burns but did not advance Thompson. One out later, Steedley bunt singled to load up the bases, just before junior Brittany Ewing smashed a base-clearing triple to the left-field fence to put the Lions up by four. LaNeave then stepped to the plate and laid down a bunt that scored Ewing from third before the Spartans could find a way to snag an out.
The Spartans answered back in the top of the second inning by collected one run off of a solo homerun by Tampa's Stacy Piagno. With the Lions unable to score during their next two chances, the Spartan then tacked on two more runs in the top of the fourth inning. Catcher Taylor Storey led off the inning with a one-out single, followed by a single from Piagno which put Storey on second. Tampa then sent a pinch-runner to second base in the form of Meagan Brislin, who advanced to third on the next play as Katlyn Raatz was hit by a pitch. One out later, Saint Leo's infield committed an error which allowed Brislin to score and all runners to advance safely. A passed ball then allowed Piagno to score for the Spartans' second run of the inning.
Saint Leo sought to extend the lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, and did so by collected three more runs. Once again, Burns led off the inning with a walk, just before stealing second base. One out later, Burns stole third base, just before the Spartans collected another Lions out. With two outs, junior Sarah Steiner walked and the Lions placed junior Jackie Carey on first base as a pinch runner. Carey then stole second base, right before Steedley reached on an error by Tampa's second baseman that allowed Burns and Carey to score safely. After Steedley safely stole second base, Ewing reached first on error by Tampa's third baseman and Steedley took home to put the Lions up by five.
The Lions' offense collected six hits, eight walks, and eight stolen bases in the second game alone.
The Saint Leo Lions will return to the field on Tuesday, Mar. 9, when they head to Clermont, Fla., to play three non-regional games. First pitch of the tripleheader is set for 1:00 p.m.
For more information on the Lions softball program, be sure to visit SaintLeoLions.com. Also, be sure to 'Like' the Lions on Facebook and 'Follow' the Lions on Twitter and Instagram.