SAINT LEO, Fla. – The Saint Leo softball team (21-11) ended a mid-week doubleheader against regional foe Flagler College (19-9) with a two-game split, Thursday afternoon from University Stadium. With the Flagler Saints scoring late in both games, the Lions lost the first contest by a score of 4-3, just before defeating the visiting Saints by a 2-1 score.
Senior Megan Still took the mound for the Lions in the first game of the day, tossing six solid innings before Junior Sarah Steiner and sophomore Ashley Ehlers came in to finish off the seventh inning. Despite the loss, the Saint Leo pitching staff allowed just nine hits while walking only one batter in the effort.
The Lions were the first team to push a run across the plate in the contest, scoring in the bottom of the first inning to take the lead. Sophomore McKenzie Burns led off the inning with a double to left field, and was pushed to third base by a sacrifice bunt from junior Brittany Ewing. On the next play, junior Sarah Steiner laid down the Lions' second sacrifice bunt of the game, and Burns was able to slide into home safely.
Flagler answered back in the top of the second inning, scoring one run to tie the game, 1-1. Much like the Lions, the Saints began the inning with a Kirstie Flink single to left field, and was sacrifice bunted over to second base by designated player Malloree Escue to give the Saints a runner in scoring position. After Flink took third base on a Saint Leo passed ball, the Saints' shortstop Christen Moon then singled through the left side and scored Flink.
In the bottom of the second, the Lions were able to push two more runs across the plate, thanks to fundamental hitting and a key Flagler error. Junior catcher Kylee Hardesty began the inning with a single. Two outs later, sophomore McKenzie Burns send a grounder to the Flagler third baseman, who then sent the ball past her teammate at first and allowed Burns to reach second and Hardesty to take third. Saint Leo's Ewing then stepped to the plate and blasted a single through the left side that scored both Burns and Hardesty to give the Lions a two-run lead.
Neither team was able to score again until the seventh inning, when the Saints caught up to Saint Leo's pitching and tacked three more runs onto the scoreboard. The inning featured four solid hits from the Flagler offense, coupled with one walk and one stolen base. With the Lions unable to score again in the bottom of the seventh inning, the Saints took game one of the doubleheader by a final score of 4-3.
Unlike the first game of the day, the second game of the doubleheader featured much less offense from both dugouts, although it was an exciting game nonetheless.
Freshman Alana Tabel started in the mound for the Lions, tossing a seven-inning complete game and allowing just three Flagler hits. The win improved Tabel's record to 7-4 on the season.
Saint Leo was again the first team to score in the contest, pushing one run across the plate in the bottom of the fourth inning. Designated player Sarah Steiner began the inning with a leadoff double to centerfield. With freshman Jessica LoBianco on second base as a pinch runner for Steiner, sophomore Kelsey LaNeave then grounded out to second base and advanced LoBianco to third. Stepping to the plate with one out, senior Rachelle Gremo then laid down a bunt single, and in the Flagler confusion, attempted to take second base but was thrown out. During the commotion, LoBianco was able to score and give the Lions the lead.
In what seemed like deja-vu from the first game, the Flagler Saints were once again able to score in the top of the seventh inning, tying the game at 1-1. With one out, Saints' first baseman Tori Jolley walked, and the Flagler coaching staff put pinch runner Whitney Little in her place. On the next play, centerfielder Melanie Oliver sent a grounded to Saint Leo first baseman Kelsey LaNeave, who threw the ball to second base to get the lead runner out. With Oliver safe on first base, shortstop Christen Moon then sent a double screaming to the centerfield fence that scored Oliver from first base and tied the score.
Looking for the win in the bottom of the seventh inning, the Lions sent Gremo to the plate, who singled to shortstop with no outs. Hardesty then laid down a sacrifice bunt which allowed Gremo to turn on her speed and advance to third base. With just one out on the board, Chelsey Steedley stepped in the batter's box for her first at-bat of the game. On the first pitch, Steedley sent a bloop single to the outfield that allowed Gremo to take home for a walk-off win for the Lions.
For the day, the Saint Leo offense combined for 13 hits, six walks, two extra-base hits and one stolen base.
The Saint Leo Lions will return to the field on Saturday, Mar. 16, when they travel to West Palm Beach, Fla., to take on the Palm Beach Atlantic Sailfish in regional action. First pitch of the doubleheader is set for 1:00 p.m.
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