WEST PALM BEACH, FL – With a three-run first inning, Palm Beach Atlantic went on to a 5-0 win over Florida Southern in game one Saturday, but a five-run Sailfish lead in game two was barely enough to contain the Moccasins, who nearly staged a comeback for the ages. After falling behind 5-0 again in the nightcap, the Mocs scored four times in the top of the seventh and had the winning run on base before falling 5-4.
Abbey Busby started both games in the pitcher's circle for Palm Beach Atlantic (26-19, 14-10 Sunshine State Conference), pitched 4.0 scoreless innings in the first and 5.0 in the second. Each time she was removed after the Sailfish had built a 5-0 lead, but they needed her again to close out game two when the Moccasins (15-24, 7-20) staged a massive assault in the final inning, highlighted by Makayla Deuberry's two-out, two-run single. It fell one run shy of the greatest seventh-inning comeback in team history.
HOW IT HAPPENED IN GAME ONE:
- The Sailfish scored five runs in the first two innings with three in the first and two in the second. Katherine Budnovich, the number three hitter in the lineup, had RBI singles in each of those innings, the first of which was one of three straight hits to start the game for PBA. Maddie Biggs and Alexis Guerra also had RBI singles in the bottom of the first, and Edmilly Molina added one in the bottom of the second that put the Sailfish up 5-0.
- Molina's single, which produced an unearned run, forced a pitching change, and Jenna Weldon ended the second inning with a strikeout and fly out. The sophomore pitcher kept the Sailfish off the board in the third and fourth innings, and got one out in the fifth before a walk and bunt single ended her day. Kelli Gault completed what proved to be another scoreless inning for the Moccasin bullpen by getting a double play to end the bottom of the fifth. Gault then worked around a leadoff single by Magnolia West, her second of the game, to pitch a scoreless sixth.
- Busby earned the win for the second game in a row, pitching the first four innings with three hits allowed, two strikeouts and no walks. That moved her record to 20-10 on the season. Budnovich, who had two hits and two RBI as a right fielder, pitched the final three innings for her first save, allowing three hits with five strikeouts and one walk. Kristen Beacham took the loss for Florida Southern as the Sailfish collected 14 hits, struck out six times and walked once against the three Moccasin pitchers.
- Freshman first baseman Maddi Conner went 3-for-3 to lead the Florida Southern offense, the first 3-hit game of her young career. The Moccasins got a double from Zierra Flodman, who blasted one off the fence in straightaway center in the fourth inning, and their other two hits from Deuberry and Shannon Reilly.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS OF GAME ONE:
- Florida Southern turned two double plays in the game, one of which involved every infielder, and the other one unassisted. The third inning ended with a 4-3-6-2-5 double play as West grounded out to second and through the course of a run-down, the Sailfish ended up with two runners at third base. The fifth inning concluded when Deuberry caught a looping pop-up at shortstop hit by Kaley Hinds and got back to the second base bag in time to double up Hannah Carlton.
- Bertisch had her second three-hit game of the series for PBA, going 3-for-4.
HOW IT HAPPENED IN GAME TWO:
- With Gault in the circle for Florida Southern, PBA struck for two runs in the bottom of the first after West and Bertisch started the game for the Sailfish with back-to-back infield singles. A ground out by Budnovich pushed them along to second and third, and both scored on a single to left by Biggs. West scored directly on the hit, and Bertisch came home when Budnovich drew a throw to second base on the play.
- Gault got out of the first inning with no further damage when third baseman Kensie Green stabbed a grounder on the line and turned it into the third out. That started a string of 11 outs in 13 batters for Gault, and the only hit during that span was an infield single by Liz Albertini in the second. The Moccasins, meanwhile, out-hit the Sailfish 5-4 through the first four innings, but grounded into two double plays.
- The Sailfish eventually broke through against Gault again in the bottom of the fifth, using two singles around a ground out to score one run before pinch-hitter Taylor Pennica launched a two-run homer to left to make it 5-0.
- The Moccasins broke up the shutout in the top of the seventh when they got the tying run into scoring position and the winning run on base. Flodman started the inning with a single to right and Alex Mace drew a four-pitch walk. Budnovich, who had again moved from right field to the pitcher's circle in the top of the sixth, got the first out on a called third strike to Lindsey Wilson, but walked Reilly to load the bases. After Green hit a towering pop-up for out number two, Budnovich threw a pitch to the backstop that allowed pinch-runner Samantha Prosser to score the Mocs' first run of the game. Budnovich then hit Conner with a pitch to load the bases again and plunked pinch-hitter Jenna Weldon to force in another run. That brought Busby back into the game, but Deuberry greeted her with a single to right center that drove in two more, bringing Florida Southern within 5-4. Now with runners at the corners, Busby had to face the Florida Southern RBI leader, Jessica Trana, who already had one hit against her in the game. Trana hit the ball well, driving a 2-1 pitch into right center, but West tracked it down for the final out.
- That made a winner of Busby for the second time Saturday, and gave the senior all three wins in the series. She pitched 5.1 innings in the game, gave up six hits, struck out four and walked no one. All four of the Florida Southern runs were charged to Budnovich, who gave up only one hit in 1.2 innings and had four strikeouts, but also walked two and hit two. Gault suffered the loss for Florida Southern, giving up the first four runs on six hits with four strikeouts and no walks in 4.2 innings. Aubrey Ehlers went the final 1.1, retiring four of the five batters she faced, with Pennica's home run the only base runner.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS OF GAME TWO:
- Florida Southern's starting lineup (not including the pitchers) was the 24th different one employed by head coach Chris Bellotto this season.
- Both teams had seven hits, with Deuberry for Florida Southern and West for Palm Beach Atlantic the only players with more than one.
- The largest seventh-inning deficit the Moccasins have ever overcome to win a game was five runs in an 8-7 win over West Georgia in 2006. The Mocs trailed 7-2 in that one before scoring six runs in the bottom of the seventh for a win in the final game of a tournament being hosted by West Georgia.
- Conner went 3-for-7 with a walk and a hit by pitch in the series. She nearly had a fourth hit, but third baseman Maddie Bertisch fielded a hard one-bouncer in game two Saturday and was able to throw Conner out at first.
- Bertisch went 7-for-10 for PBA in the series.
- Weldon has two RBI as a pinch-hitter this year. Her first provided the Mocs with the winning run in an extra-inning win at Eckerd on March 1.
Florida Southern returns home for its next set of games, hosting a three-game series with Florida Tech this Thursday and Friday. Thursday night's game begins at 6 p.m., and the Good Friday doubleheader begins at noon.