CLEARWATER, Fla. – The Saint Leo softball team (4-8) split the final day of the Eckerd College Spring Invitational and ended their five-game losing streak, Sunday afternoon from the Eddie C. Moore Complex in Clearwater, Fla. The Lions opened action by dropping a 4-1, non-conference decision to the No.15-ranked Nova Southeastern Sharks (8-4), before upending Eckerd College (3-10) 5-4, in 11 innings.
On the day, a trio of Lions collected two hits apiece as Ana Castillo, Tiffinee Harvey, and Elysha Agen helped ignite the SLU offense. Castillo added a double and an RBI, while Harvey drove in a run and Agen scored on a pair of occasions. Sarah Boyd and Brittany Yates each collected singles and freshman shortstop Katie Gwinn delivered on her first hit as a Lion. Gwinn also added to the Lions cause by scoring twice. Danielle Moreda and Dianne Gonzalez each picked up a RBI and Amber Martyn platted one run. In total, the Lions scored six runs and collected nine hits during the two game stretch.
In game one, Nova Southeastern opened the scoring with a run in the second inning as Dani Caron connected on a pinch-hit double to open up a 1-0 lead. They added their second run as a result of a sacrifice fly in the third inning, when they took advantage of the only Lions’ error of the game.
The Sharks tallied their third run of the game in the fourth inning, as a single and a double extended the lead to3-0. With the Lions’ bats still hitless, the Sharks tacked on their final run of the contest in the fifth inning. The team used two consecutive singles and aggressive base running to extend the margin.
The sixth inning belonged to the Lions. Gwinn broke the no-hitter attempt by leading off the frame with her first collegiate hit. It was soon followed by a pair of singles, including an RBI base knock by Harvey. The Lions continued to press in the inning, forcing the Sharks into a bases loaded situation. However, SLU could not convert their opportunity into runs. Their bats were kept quiet in the seventh as the team dropped the 4-1, in-region contest to NSU.
Kristen Kelly took the loss for the Lions, falling to 0-4 in 2010. She allowed three earned runs and seven hits over 4.2 innings of work. Jaime Walker continued outstanding work out of the bullpen, as she performed 1.1 innings of relief duty allowing just one hit.
Game two was a different story. It was a pitching battle from the get go, as Lions’ hurler Ashton Whidden and Eckerd’s Alex Koronkiewicz traded zeros on the board for the first five innings. In fact, the first five frames produced minimal scoring opportunities and only three combined hits.
Action heated up in the top of the sixth inning, however, as Eckerd struck for the first run of the game on an RBI single up the middle. The Lions didn’t answer in the sixth, but after holding the Tritons scoreless in the top of the seventh, the squad turned to some two-out dramatics in their half of the inning. Boyd singled and soon advanced into scoring position in between a pair of outs. Boyd’s single eventually forced Castillo to the plate. Down 0-2 in the count and with two outs, the Lions second baseman ripped a shot down the leftfield line which fell in fair territory. The hit allowed Boyd to score, tying the game and forcing it into extras.
After both teams went scoreless in the eight, the Tritons and Lions began to exchange a series of runs over the next few innings. The ninth inning saw Eckerd connect on a RBI single to grab a 2-1 lead. It was immediately answered in the bottom half as Yates stroked a single scoring Agen from third.
In 10th inning was witness to the same turn of events. A fielder’s choice platted the Tritons run in the top half of the inning and Gonzalez answered the call with a sacrifice fly to right field scoring Martyn from third.
For the third-straight inning, Eckerd showed their mental toughness as Sasso stroked a one-out RBI single to grab a 4-3 lead. It was all the Tritons scored though, as SLU answered one final time. In the bottom of the 11th, Moreda reached and advanced to second base on an Eckerd throwing error. The result of the play allowed Gwinn to come around and score and knot the game at four. With no outs, an infield bunt single and an intentional walk forced the bases loaded. Next, with Boyd in the batter’s box, the hurler sent a pitch to the plate that the catcher let get away. It allowed Agen to slide home and claim the team’s first victory in nearly a week.
Whidden was superb in the contest, throwing a complete-game victory where she improved to 4-2 on the season. She scattered five hits and one earned run, while throwing 150 pitches in the extra-innings affair.
The Lions will have a break from tournament action as they prepare to close out the month at University Field. On Friday, February 26th, the Lions will welcome Lewis University into the friendly confines. First pitch for the doubleheader is scheduled for 5:00 p.m.