MELBOURNE, Fla. – Less than 24 hours after the Saint Leo softball team clinched the number one position in the Sunshine State Conference, the Lions took both games of the doubleheader at Nancy Bottge Field to sweep the Florida Tech Panthers. The Friday afternoon wins tallied the Lions' ninth conference win and second series sweep of the season.
Senior Megan Still started in the mound for the Lions' game one, tossing five and two-thirds innings before freshman Alana Table came in for relief duties. Through three full innings, Still had retired nine batters in a row, and she collected the win in the effort, which improved her record to 10-3 on the season. Tabel also collected her second career save in the appearance. As a duo, Still and Tabel combined for seven strikeouts in game one, allowing just five hits and one walk.
Much like yesterday's single game, it was junior Brittany Ewing who led off the first inning for the Lions' offense, taking a one-out walk to give Saint Leo a base runner early on. After quickly taking second base on a Florida Tech passed ball, Ewing scored easily when a single from junior Sarah Steiner resulted in a throwing error from the Panthers' outfield. Steiner, advancing to third base, was pinch run for by the Lions' Victoria Obermeier, who then scored on a single from senior Rachelle Gremo to give the Lions a two run lead.
As the Panthers struggled to score, the Lions tacked on two more runs in the top of the sixth inning. With no outs, Steiner singled through the left side, and Tiffany Thompson took her place on first base as a pinch runner. Gremo then collected a bunt single that moved Thompson over to second, and junior Chelsey Steedley took a hit-by-pitch to load the bases. Junior Kylee Hardesty then stepped to the plate and blasted an RBI single to left field that scored both Thompson and Gremo and put the Lions up, 4-0.
Florida Tech was able to score their first runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, when five back-to-back Panther batters put the ball in play and pushed two Florida Tech runs across the plate. However, the runs weren't enough, as the Panthers fell to the Lions by a score or 4-2.
After collecting the save in the first game, freshman Alana Tabel started for the Lions in the circle for the second game of the day. Pitching four full innings, Tabel allowed just four hits before sophomore Ashley Ehlers and senior Megan Still came in for relief. In the second game of the day, Saint Leo's pitching staff combined for two strikeouts, allowing nine hits and zero walks.
The second game of the day featured a similar offensive atmosphere, as the Lions once again jumped on the scoreboard first. This time, it was Steiner who led off the top of the first inning with a two-out double to quickly give Saint Leo a runner in scoring position. Gremo then came up big, blasting an RBI stand-up triple that scored Steiner and gave the Lions the lead once again.
Much unlike the first two games of the series, the Panthers were able to score a run in the bottom of the first inning that tied the game at 1-1. Florida Tech's Elaine Brown led off the inning with a single up the middle, and was eventually sacrifice bunted over to third base by the Panthers' Kara Dickinson. A sacrifice fly ball by Taylor Peterson then pushed Brown across the plate, and the Panthers took an even hand in the game for the first time in the series.
Refusing to allow a tie game, the Lions' tacked on two more runs in the top of the second inning. Hardesty led off the inning for Saint Leo, taking first base on a throwing error from the Panthers' shortstop, and freshman Jessica LoBianco took her place on first as a pinch runner. A groundout then advanced LoBianco to second base, just before Kafalas walked to give the Lions their second base runner. It was then sophomore Torrie Weindorf who came up clutch and sent a single screaming through the middle infield to score LoBianco and give the Lions the lead. With Obermeier pinch running for Kafalas, Ewing singled down the left field line and scored Obermeier, to give the Lions a 3-1 lead.
The Panthers were unable to answer back in the bottom of the second, and Saint Leo came out with bats swinging in the top of the third to score three more runs. Three consecutive hits from Steedley, Hardesty, and LaNeave score two runs, and a two-out single from Burns scored the third run of the inning, as the Lions took a 6-1 lead.
Despite Saint Leo's five-run lead, the Lions tacked on three more runs in the top of the sixth inning, when three hits, a sacrifice, and a Florida Tech error allowed Burns, pinch runner Kaitlyn Diaz, and Gremo to score.
Although the Panthers were down by eight, Florida Tech scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth to prevent the game from ending via the eight-run rule. The Lions answered back, however, in the top of the seventh when RBI singlses from Steiner and Gremo pushed Burns and Ewing across the plate to give Saint Leo an 11-4 lead.
On the day, the Lions collected an astounding 22 hits, while walking six times and collecting four stolen bases.
The Lions return to action on Friday Apr 5, when they host the Rollins College Tars at University Stadium. First pitch is set for 7 p.m.
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