DAVIE – Florida Southern outhit No. 4 Nova Southeastern, but fell just short in the run column as they fell 8-7 and 5-2 in Saturday's doubleheader at Ian Besner Field.
Florida Southern (11-13, 1-5 SSC) was able to push across the game's first run in all three games of the series against the Sharks, and in four of the six conference games this season after it was able to do so again in both games of Saturday's doubleheader. As they did in the game Friday night, the Moccasins had runners on the corners with one out when junior right fielder Jhalan Jackson (Winter Haven, Fla.) hit a sacrifice fly to left, bringing in junior second baseman Shawn Sanders (Citra, Fla.) in game one. The Moccasins continued their scoring in the second inning that got started with a one-out double to left field by sophomore designated hitter Jason Sierra (Sarasota, Fla.). The Chipola College transfer advanced to third on a single to center by senior catcher Joey Miller (Sarasota, Fla.), and scored on a wild pitch.
The Sharks (23-4, 6-0 SSC), who went down one-two-three in the first inning, were able to take advantage of a pair of one-out walks in the second. A single followed up the two walks to load the bases for Kavan Thompson, who cleared them with a double to right to take a 3-2 lead. After stealing third, Thompson scored the final run of the inning on a wild pitch. They would add on three more in the next frame with the help of a two-run blast.
Facing a four-run deficit against the fourth-best team in the nation might seem a little daunting, but the Moccasins were not fazed by the challenge presented to them. With two down and a runner on first the bats came alive with a triad of singles from senior shortstop Casey Eddinger (Crawfordville, Fla.), junior center fielder Sam Machonis (Tampa, Fla.), and Sanders that plated two. NSU tried to get fancy with a pickoff behind Sanders at first, but an errant throw by the pitcher sent the ball down the fence in right allowing Machonis to come around to score from second, as well as having Sanders move up to third. A single through the left side by senior third baseman Chris Dennis (Rockledge, Fla.) scored Sanders, bringing the Mocs within one.
From then on, FSC's sophomore starter Craig Savage (Apopka, Fla.) set down the next two innings worth of Sharks batters. He finished with 5.0 innings of work and gave up seven runs (all earned) on five hits, three walks, and had five K's. Fellow sophomore A.J. Smith (Merritt Island, Fla.), who came in relief for Savage, continued the trend allowing just one hit in his first two innings of work. In fact, after the Mocs scored their four runs in the fourth, there wasn't a hit on either side until the top of the seventh when Jackson smashed his team-leading 8th homer of the year to tie the game.
Justin Garcia, the only player in the conference who has more homeruns than Jackson, hit his tenth of the year and second of the game which ended up being the difference. Devin Raftery came in for the final two innings for NSU and allowed just one runner after he hit Dennis with one out in the ninth.
Game two took the form of Friday's series opener, finishing in just two hours and six minutes. After flipping the starters for the doubleheader, the Mocs head coach Lance Niekro had to be pleased with the performance he got from junior starter Brady Arenson (Glenview, Ill.) who took the hill in the series finale. Arenson had his game on point as he set down the side in order five of the first six innings of the game, needing just 74 pitches to do so. His only blemish to that point was a leadoff homerun in the second inning.
The game started with another Moccasin lead before the first Shark could step in the box. A leadoff walk by senior left fielder Kyle Richards (Groton, Conn.) followed by a Machonis infield single put runners on the corners. Jackson drove in Richards with a fielder's choice for his team-best 36th RBI of the season, once again giving FSC a 1-0 lead. Sanders continued his hot day with a leadoff single in the second for his fourth of five hits on the day. He would be moved 90 feet from scoring on a double to left by Eddinger and scored when Richards grounded out to short.
After another leadoff homerun in the seventh for NSU tied the game at 2, the Mocs came out ready to hit in the eighth. A couple of leadoff hits by redshirt juniors allowed FSC to take the lead back as first baseman Blake Swann (Live Oak, Fla.) started the inning with a double down the line in left, and scored on a single to center by right fielder Dominic Brugnoni (St. Clair Shores, Mich.). After Brugnoni was caught trying to stretch the hit into a double, Sanders singled up the middle to try to rekindle the rally, but his efforts were unsuccessful.
NSU was able to scratch across the tying run in the bottom half of the inning before a two-run triple to right added all the insurance the Sharks needed to clinch its best in conference start in program history.
The Moccasins will be back in action Friday, March 27 when they travel to Melbourne for a conference series against 15th-ranked Florida Tech. Opening pitch Friday night is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Andy Seminick-Les Hall Field.