LAKELAND – A senior day that went on and on through two extra-inning games had a little bit of everything for Florida Southern and Eckerd on the final day of the 2016 season. Both games featured seventh-inning comebacks, one for the Moccasins and one for the Tritons; each team had outstanding relief pitching in game one and the same from their starters in game two; and for the Moccasins, both of their seniors came through in critical situations that gave their team a chance to win. The Moccasins got that win in game one by scoring on an error in the bottom of the 11th inning for a 6-5 victory, but the Tritons won the nightcap 6-3 in 10 innings.
The doubleheader was the first for Florida Southern to feature two games of 10 or more innings since 2001 when it happened twice. Florida Southern and Barry played 21 and 14-inning games on April 1 of that year, and the Mocs also had 12 and 11-inning games at Florida Tech on March 17, though the second game was suspended by darkness after nine innings and completed later in April.
In the opener, Florida Southern (16-29-1, 8-15-1 Sunshine State Conference) trailed 4-2 in the middle of the third inning before rallying to take a 5-4 lead on a 2-run single by Jessica Trana in the bottom of the sixth. However, Eckerd (29-24-1, 11-13 Sunshine State Conference) tied the score in the top the seventh inning. A single by senior Jordan Alexander eventually helped decide the game when she came home to score the winning run on an Eckerd error with one out in the bottom of the 11th.
It would not have been possible if not for the pitching of junior Hannah Loyer, who pitched 8.0 innings of relief while giving up just one unearned run on three hits with five strikeouts and no walks. She retired 24 of the 27 batters she faced in an absolutely brilliant performance that earned her the win.
In game two, Florida Southern trailed 3-0 but mounted another comeback, this time tying the game 3-3 in the bottom of the seventh when sophomore Ashlyn Worcester singled in senior Maggie Roberts, who had led off the inning with a triple. Eckerd spoiled what could have been another extra-inning win by the Moccasins though with three straight RBI doubles with one out in the top of the 10th, one of them by Nikole Van Gennep, who had three doubles and four RBI in the game in addition to pitching all 10 innings for the win.
The first game was a marathon in itself, lasting more than three hours. The Moccasins already trailed 1-0 when they came to bat in the bottom of the first inning and got a leadoff walk from Alexander and an infield single from junior Erin Klein. Alexander scored the tying run when the throw to third on a double steal went down the line, and a fly ball by freshman Zierra Flodman later drove in Klein to put the Mocs ahead 2-1.
Eckerd tied the score in the top of the second and re-claimed the lead with two more runs in the top of the third. Chelsea Armstrong, whose sacrifice fly in the top of the first had given Eckerd its first run of the day, singled with two out in the third and came home on a triple by Van Gennep, who spent most of game one as designated player in the Eckerd lineup. Van Gennep then scored on a wild pitch and the Tritons were up 4-2.
Florida Southern got one of those runs back in the bottom of the third when freshman Annemarie Tracey drew a leadoff walk, stole second, moved to third on another hit by Klein, and scored on an Eckerd error as the Tritons tried to turn what would have been an inning-ending double play.
Loyer came in at that point with the Mocs trailing 4-3 and dominated the rest of the game. She set down the first nine hitters she faced before Trana delivered her 2-run single in the bottom of the sixth that put the Mocs ahead 5-4. That single followed Klein's third hit of the game earlier in the inning and an Eckerd error that put junior Erica Morrissey on base as she was attempting to sacrifice.
An error also led to a run by Eckerd in the top of the seventh. Janna Gaburo, who was in for the Tritons as a relief pitcher, led off the inning with a single, stole second, and advanced to third on a throwing error. That put her in position to score on a fly ball by Kiley King.
The Moccasins left Alexander on base in the bottom of the seventh after she had singled with two out, and also left Roberts on base following a single in the eighth. They had the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth following a single by sophomore Amber Presto, her third hit of the game, and walks by Tracey and Morrissey. The tenth looked almost as promising but a spectacular play by Eckerd shortstop Brittany Martinez took a hit away from Roberts before junior Dana Mackiewicz was stranded following a 2-out single and stolen base.
Meanwhile, Loyer had worked out of a tight spot in the top of the tenth when singles by King and Kaycie Duncan put runners at first and third with none out. Floyd then bounced into a fielder's choice with Presto throwing King out at the plate, and Loyer got two more outs on a fly ball to center and line drive to third.
After a 1-2-3 top of the 11th, the game ended in strange fashion in the bottom of the 11th. Alexander singled with one out and she reached second when the Tritons were unable to convert a force play on a ground ball hit by Klein. Morrissey smoked a pitch to first base that first baseman Rachael Luckett was able to keep in front of her, but the infield single loaded the bases for Flodman. Eckerd would make a defensive change and brought the replacement in to play as a fifth infielder to cut down on any chance the ball would get through for a hit. The strategy somewhat worked. Flodman hit the ball to the closer of the players essentially playing shortstop but it was mishandled for an error as Alexander scored the winning run.
That made a winner of Loyer, who is now 3-6 on the season, after her eight innings of sterling relief. It also forced Gaburo (9-7) to take the loss after 5.0 innings of relief for Eckerd in which she gave up only one unearned run on five hits.
The Moccasins ended up with a season-high 13 hits in the game, three of them by Klein and three by Presto. Alexander and Morrissey each had two hits, and Morrissey also had two walks.
After the drama of the first game, the second game of the day was scoreless through the first three innings but Van Gennep gave the Tritons a 3-0 lead with an RBI double in the top of the fourth and a 2-run double in the top of the fifth. She also held the Moccasins to just two base runners as Eckerd's starting pitcher through the first four innings, both of them singles by Morrissey.
Down 3-0, the Mocs cut into the deficit in the bottom of the fifth as Roberts singled with one out, with Tracey eventually scoring as a pinch-runner on a wild pitch. Two singles by Worcester and Alexander, with an error in between them, produced another run to get the Mocs within 3-2.
Roberts led off the bottom off the bottom of the seventh with her first career triple and Worcester came through again with an RBI single two batters later that tied the game at 3-3. Unfortunately for the Moccasins that was their final base runner of the game as Van Gennep got a double play to end the seventh and retired all nine batters she faced in extra innings.
Van Gennep continued to play a big role with her bat too. FSC starting pitcher Brandi Jones had retired 14 out of 15 Eckerd batters since Van Gennep's 2-run double in the fifth, but a single by Carrie Shere with one out in the top of the 10th got the Tritons going again. Three straight doubles by Stephanie Wolfrom, Van Gennep, and Armstrong followed that, and gave Eckerd three runs in the 10th inning for the win.
Van Gennep went the distance in the circle for Eckerd, scattering seven hits and giving up only two earned runs. She struck out three and did not walk a batter. She finishes the year with a 17-17 record and walked only 28 batters in 230.2 innings. Van Gennep also went 3-for-5 with three doubles and four RBI at the plate in game two.
Morrissey, Roberts and Worcester all had two hits apiece for the Moccasins.
Jones suffered another hard-luck loss for Florida Southern to end the year 8-15. She went 9.1 innings in her final start, with the Tritons scoring six runs (four earned) on 11 hits with four strikeouts and three walks. Jones gave up only one earned run through the first eight innings Saturday.
Jones was also part of an interesting record of sorts on Saturday. The Moccasin pitching staff, which includes Jones, Loyer, Trana, and Sydney Koch committed only one error all season in 82 chances. Though a complete position breakdown is unavailable prior to 1990, their combined fielding percentage of .988 is the best since that season. Only two other seasons ended with the Moccasin pitchers making as few as two errors, most recently in 2007. None of the three pitchers used by the Moccasins Saturday mailed it in either. Koch and Loyer each made three defensive plays in game one, and Jones had four in game two.