Sand Sharks stun No. 10 Mariners in series finale

Mackenzie Freeman came through with a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning, and USCB softball knocked off NAIA No. 10 Coastal Georgia 3-2 at home Wednesday to win the finale of a three- game series and hand the Mariners their first Sun Conference defeat after dropping both ends of a doubleheader Tuesday. 

Coastal Georgia jumped ahead in the opening game of the series Tuesday with a Kayla Rowell bases-loaded walk, but Sand Shark starting pitcher Taylor Florea limited the damage and induced a fielder’s choice and a strikeout to keep the game at 1-0. USCB loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the second but squandered the opportunity, and the Mariners made it 2-0 in the third as Melani Jones scored on a Florea wild pitch. 

The Sand Sharks found the scoreboard in the sixth inning, as an Ashlyn Alte single and Freeman walk set up Francie Gaskin’s RBI single up the middle to cut the lead to 2-1. Freeman looked to tag up on a Jaci Coleman flyout, but the junior was gunned down at the plate by Jones to keep the Mariner lead intact. Coastal Georgia added a trio of insurance runs in the top of the seventh, and the Sand Sharks stranded two runners in the bottom half to end the game. 

Gaskin and Harlee Walker each went 2-for-3 for USCB, and Florea went all seven innings in the circle, allowing three earned runs on seven hits while picking up five strikeouts.

The Sand Sharks grabbed the early lead in the rematch Tuesday, as Alyssa Smith began the first inning with a bunt single and stole second before Weller ripped a double down the left-field line for the game’s first run. Coastal Georgia responded in the top of the fourth with three runs, and USCB couldn’t come up with an answer in the bottom half with two runners left on base. The Mariners blew it open in the top of the sixth inning, scoring three runs on three hits to take a commanding 6-1 lead. Harlee Walker cut it to four after a Jaci Coleman triple, but the Sand Sharks couldn’t claw any closer as Reagan Thomas finished off her complete game for a 6-2 victory. 

Weller led USCB’s offense, going 3-for-4 with a double. Gaskin was 2-for-3 with a pair of singles, and Jaci Coleman added a triple. 

After a strong first inning of work from Sand Shark starter Reghan Steifle, USCB grabbed the lead in the finale Wednesday with a run in the bottom half. Smith and Weller started the frame with singles, and Alte poked an RBI hit through the left side to plate Smith and take a 1-0 lead. The Mariners quickly answered with a pair of runs in the second inning, but USCB evened the contest in the fourth on a fielding error to score Coleman from third. Steifle worked out of trouble in the fifth to strand two baserunners, and Libby Carey came out of the bullpen in the seventh to strike out Sarah Thinger and keep the game tied. 

With a chance to win the game with just one run, Daryn Miller used her wheels to beat out a throw from second and earn an infield single before stealing second base. A Smith groundout moved the winning run to third, and Coastal Georgia walked the next two batters to bring up Freeman with one out. The junior finished the job at the plate, sending a fly ball into left field before Miller tagged and scored from third to knock off the 10th-ranked Mariners and hand the visitors just their second loss of the season.

Steifle was spectacular in the circle, throwing 6.2 innings and allowing two runs while picking up three strikeouts. Coleman, Miller, and Smith all notched two hits apiece, and Carey came up big in relief in the seventh by striking out the only batter she faced.

USCB (16-11, 7-2) begins an eight-game road swing on Friday with a weekend Sun Conference series at Webber International.

By Wes Kerr

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