Spartanburg, S.C. – Cheyenne Griffin hit two two-run home runs, one in each game, to help lead USC Upstate to a split with Florida Gulf Coast in a key A-Sun doubleheader Saturday night at Cyrill Stadium. Griffin's two-run blast gave Upstate a 2-1 victory in game one, while the Eagles came back to take an 8-6 victory in game two.
Upstate stands 35-9 overall and 8-4 in the A-Sun. The Spartans will play host to Stetson Sunday afternoon at 1:00 in A-Sun action. It will be Senior Day as Upstate will honor seniors Lacey Dinney, Janna Lewis, Katelyn Molkenthin and Haley Sheehan in a pregame ceremony. FGCU is 32-22 overall and 12-4 in the conference.
"I really liked that we battled until the end," said Upstate head coach Chris Hawkins. "Cheyenne delivered for us with a couple of key home runs and helped us get a split. With so many teams fighting for a spot in the A-Sun Tournament, getting at least a split tonight was key. We will now turn our attention to Stetson and try to send our seniors out on a good note."
FGCU threatened in the top of the second inning in game one, putting runners on first and second with two outs. Brittney Garabedian singled to center, but Chelsea Zgrabik was thrown out at the plate by a perfect strike from center fielder Shellie Robinson (DeLand, Fla.).
FGCU broke through with an unearned run in the third. Regan Knapik singled to lead off the inning and advanced to second on an error. Jessica Barnes followed with a bunt single and Knapik scored from second on a throwing error to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead.
Upstate took the lead in the bottom of the fourth when Ericka Harris (Piedmont, S.C.) singled to lead off the inning and Griffin (Moore, S.C.) followed with a two-out home run to center as Upstate opened a 2-1 lead.
Upstate threatened in the fifth inning, putting runners on first and second with no outs, but a double play and ground out got FGCU out of the inning as Upstate remained on top, 2-1.
FGCU put the leadoff batter on as pinch hitter Tori Williams slapped a single up the middle. Kelsey Carpenter was re-inserted into the lineup at first and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. She moved over to third on a ground out, but Alexander got another ground out to end the game with an Upstate win. The Spartan victory snapped an eight-game league winning streak by FGCU.
Alexander was strong in the circle again. She improved to 24-3 on the year, and a perfect 8-0 in A-Sun play, with the win. She allowed just five FGCU hits. FGCU starter Shelby Morgan took the loss, allowing two runs on five Upstate hits to fall to 18-6 on the year. Griffin led Upstate at the plate with two hits, including the two-run game-winning homer.
FGCU didn't take long to jump on top in the second game. Jessica Barnes singled to lead off the inning and Mariah Fernandez hit a two-run homer to give the Eagles a 2-0 lead.
Upstate tried to get back into the game in the second inning. The Spartans loaded the bases with two outs, but FGCU starter Amanda Josie got a fly out to end the threat.
FGCU added to its lead in the third inning. The Eagles loaded the bases with no outs and got a run on a sacrifice fly. Upstate starter Casee Clauser (Ladera Ranch, Calif.) got out of the inning without further damage.
Upstate got back into the game using the long ball in the bottom of the third. Griffin knocked her second two-run home run of the day to get Upstate within 3-2. Robinson followed with a solo homer, collecting back-to-back homers in the inning to tie the game at 3-3.
Upstate put together a threat in the fourth inning, putting runners on first and second with one out. However, the Eagles recorded an unconventional double play, getting a ground out at first and then throwing an Upstate runner out at home to get out of the inning.
FGCU went back on top in the top of the fifth inning. Zgrabik knocked a two-run homer off of Alexander, who came in to start the fifth in relief. Holding a 5-3 lead, the Eagles mounted another scoring opportunity in the sixth. With runners on first and second, Barnes knocked a double to score a run and take the lead to 6-3. A two-run single up the middle from Emily Lanier drove in a pair as FGCU opened an 8-3 lead.
Upstate would not go away. With runners on second and third and one out in the bottom of the sixth, Maddison Kieffer (Middleburg, Fla.) knocked a three-run home run to center to get the Spartans with 8-6.
Upstate stayed in the game as Clauser, who came back into the game in the sixth, did not allow a run in the top of the seventh. However, the Spartans went down in order in the bottom of the seventh and FGCU took the 8-6 win.
Alexander took the loss for Upstate, falling to 24-4 on the year with the split on the day. FGCU's Morgan Campen improved to 3-5 on the year with the win. She tossed two innings of relief to get the victory.
Kieffer led Upstate at the plate, going 3-for-3 with three RBIs. Zgrabik led the way for FGCU, also finishing with three hits. Four other Eagles collected two hits on the day.