DAVIE – A few key hits for the fourth-ranked Nova Southeastern Sharks combined with a few untimely errors by Florida Southern turned out to be the difference as the Moccasins fall in the series opener 5-2.
Junior starter Ben Richardson (Orlando, Fla.) went the distance for the first time this season after leading the team a year ago with three, going eight innings giving five runs (one earned) on seven hits while not giving up any walks and striking out six.
The Moccasins (11-11, 1-3 SSC) got out to an early lead, giving Richardson some breathing room before he threw his first pitch. Junior center fielder Sam Machonis (Tampa, Fla.), coming off a program-best six hit performance against Warner on Tuesday, continued to swing a hot bat by chopping a single over the head of the Sharks' shortstop. That hit advanced senior left fielder Kyle Richards (Groton, Conn.) to third who led off the game by being hit by a pitch. Richards scored on a 6-4-3 double-play that quieted the potential for a big opening frame.
From then on, however, Roberto Baroniel was dialed in for NSU (21-4, 4-0 SSC). He went on a streak of 10 consecutive retired batters from the first to the fourth, as well as retiring seven consecutive from the fourth to the seventh. He ended the night throwing a complete nine innings giving up two runs (one earned) on six hits, no walks, and struck out 10. The two pitchers combined for 17.0 innings pitched, 13 hits, seven runs (three earned), 0 walks, and 16 strikeouts in the 2 hour and 3 minute affair.
Nova Southeastern found its answer in the second inning, pushing across two runs in the frame. A sacrifice bunt gave the Sharks runners on second and third with one out before they would tie the game with a groundout to the Mocs senior shortstop Casey Eddinger (Crawfordville, Fla.). They would take the lead with a high-chopper of their own as Dylan Woods was able to just beat the throw by senior third baseman Chris Dennis (Rockledge, Fla.). That lead would be increased to 3-1 on another groundout to Eddinger. All of NSU's first three runs were unearned courtesy to a pair of errors.
FSC cut the lead to one in the fourth that started with a pair of one-out singles by Dennis and junior right fielder Jhalan Jackson (Winter Haven, Fla.), stretching Dennis' career-high hitting streak to 20 games. A two-out error by the Sharks' third baseman off the bat of senior designated hitter Trevor Freeman (Shalimar, Fla.) allowed Dennis to score from second.
The Sharks would come right back and add two more in the bottom of the frame. After a leadoff double to the gap in right center, a smart play by Eddinger to catch the overly-aggressive Michael Hernandez trying to advance to third on the sharp grounder put a runner on first with one out. That was followed up with a single to left by Woods that saw Kavan Thompson advance all the way to third and eventually score on a throwing error. An RBI single would make Thompson's run earned, the only one of the day for Richardson, as the lead became 5-2.
From there, Richardson retired the final 12 batters he faced while fanning four.
The Moccasins and Sharks will conclude the series on Saturday, March 21, with a doubleheader at Ian Besner Field at 1 p.m.