LAKELAND – College softball has changed dramatically in the last decade or so, with teams scoring and hitting more than they have at any time in the history of the game. But for one night at least, Florida Southern and Saint Leo seemed to stepped back in time for an old-school pitcher's duel that brought back memories of some of their classic battles from years gone by. Florida Southern's Aubrey Ehlers and Saint Leo's Auria Mounts took a scoreless game into extra innings where the Lions scored an unearned run in the top of the ninth to take a 1-0 victory.
Both schools have a long lineage of great pitchers, many of them All-Americans, and for many years, 1-0, 2-0, and 2-1 scores were the norm. Florida Southern head coach Chris Bellotto has been part of all of them, and Saint Leo's Erin Kinberger has seen her fair share too as first a catcher for the Lions from 2004-07, and now as their head coach. Wednesday night's game was the sixth between the teams that went to extra innings without a run scored. The Mocs won one of those previous games with only two hits. The Lions took one of them in 10 innings with just one hit, a walk-off home run. This one followed an unusual script too.
The Moccasins (14-20, 6-16 Sunshine State Conference) had base runners in all but two innings. The Lions (26-13, 15-7) had base runners in all but one, and runners in scoring position in all but two. There were three double plays in the game, one of which resulted in an out at the plate; each team had a runner caught stealing and the Mocs had one picked off; a base-running miscue cost Saint Leo another out, and the Mocs had one erased on a strange force play from the outfield. In the final inning, the winning run scored from second base, on a play that involved a near-collision between the base runner and shortstop.
Through it all though, Ehlers and Mounts got every out they needed to get. Yes, the Lions had a runner in all but one inning against Ehlers, but only twice did they get more than one. Mounts had only one inning in which she allowed more than one, and there were only three occasions in the game where either team put back-to-back hitters on base.
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- Saint Leo broke the deadlock in the top of the ninth after Sarah Pauscher drew a one-out walk, the only one issued by Ehlers in the game. Alexis Miniet then put down a bunt that put Pauscher in scoring position for Emily Pilon, who hit a ground ball in the direction of Makayla Deuberry. With Pauscher passing directly in front of the Florida Southern shortstop at an inopportune moment, Deuberry was unable to make the play on an error not of her own making as Pauscher scored all the way from second. The call was upheld after a protest, and Ehlers got the final two outs of the inning without issue.
- The Moccasins had a chance to score in the bottom half of the inning when Celia Higgins reached on a one-out walk just as Pauscher had done for the Lions in the top half of the inning. However, Higgins was thrown out attempting to steal and Mounts ended the game by getting Jessica Trana on a ground ball back to the circle.
- Before Saint Leo scored in the ninth, the greatest threat Ehlers faced came in the first inning. Kacie Kelly led off the game with a triple and Ashley Morris followed with a bunt single to third, with Kelly forced to hold her position. Morris then stole second to put runners at second and third with none out. Shyanne DuBois followed with a ground ball back to Ehlers, who froze Kelly before throwing to Maddi Conner at first, but when Kelly attempted to score on that throw, Conner in turn threw to the plate where Zierra Flodman put the tag down for a 1-3-2 double play.
- In the top of the fourth, the Lions got a leadoff double from DuBois, but again ran into an out at the plate. With one out, DuBois came too far down the line from third when Pauscher showed bunt, and was tagged by Flodman at the end of a brief run-down.
- Ehlers was helped by her defense again in the fifth and seventh innings. Pilon doubled with one out in the top of the fifth and took third on a ground out, but was stranded there as right fielder Alex Mace made a spectacular diving catch in foul territory. Miniet doubled with one out in the seventh, but was caught going to third on a heads-up play by Higgins and Deuberry on the left side of the infield. Bluffing a throw to first after fielding a ground ball, Higgins instead caught Miniet trying to take liberties as Deuberry came in from behind to apply the tag. It was the second time in the game Deuberry had been involved in a sharp-looking play that resulted in an out as the senior shortstop scooped up a hard-hit grounder by Morris in the third and made it look nonchalant with a throw to first.
- Florida Southern was unable to take advantage of singles by Jadin Dewith in the first and third innings, leaving her on base once and having her erased on a 6-4-3 double play the second time. They had a better chance to score when Mace and Lindsey Wilson started the bottom of the fifth with back-to-back singles. Mounts got a pop-up for one out before Taylor Davis hit a sinking line drive into shallow left. DuBois made a diving attempt to catch the ball, and though she did not come up with, was still able to get a force out at second. Even that did not come easy as DuBois first tried to throw Mace out at third but was too late before Morris got the relay down to Pilon on second to just beat Wilson going into the bag.
- That bizarre force play was one of nine straight outs recorded by Mounts from the fifth through seventh innings, though Mace hit a bullet to Kelly for one of them in the seventh. Pinch-hitter Jenna Weldon broke the string of outs with a leadoff single in the eighth, but Saint Leo catcher Deanna Falciglia was able to pick Conner off first after the Moccasin first baseman returned to the game as a runner. Kelly later ended the inning by making a leaping catch on a ball hit by Dewith.
- Mounts completed her second shutout of the season by scattering five hits and three walks with three strikeouts as she improved to 11-6. Ehlers fell to 13-10, allowing one unearned run on eight hits with six strikeouts and one walk.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS:
- Dewith went 2-for-4 and stole one base to extend her hitting streak to nine games, but Deuberry saw hers end at 11. That had been the longest current streak in the Sunshine State Conference, with Dewith now taking over that position. Embry-Riddle's Maggie Scott has the longest in the SSC this season with 16 in a row from March 1-29.
- Davis could have easily had two hits for the Moccasins. The freshman second baseman smashed a pitch down the first base line in her first at-bat that went off the glove of Kendyl Crean, but was picked up by Pilon at second, who had just enough time to throw back to Crean for the out. Davis was later denied another hit when the runners were forced to hold as DuBois made a diving attempt on her ball hit in the fifth inning that resulted in a force out at second.
- Weldon is 2-for-3 as a pinch-hitter this season. The last three Moccasin pinch-hitters used have picked up hits with Samantha Prosser, Beka Schulte, and Weldon all doing that in recent games.
- Kelly and Miniet each had two hits for Saint Leo, with Miniet going 2-for-3 after coming off the bench in the fifth inning.
- Florida Southern's league-leading seven extra-inning games are its most since 2010 when the Mocs played seven in 48 games. The school record is nine, set in 2001 and 2002.
- There have been 13 conference games this year across the SSC that have gone to extra innings and either Florida Southern or Saint Leo have been involved in nine of them. Prior to Wednesday night they had each played four.
- The last time Florida Southern and Saint Leo went extras was also a 1-0 game won by the Lions in 2014.
Florida Southern and Saint Leo complete their series on Thursday night with a 6 p.m. doubleheader at Chris Bellotto Field.