Jacksonville, Fla. – The USC Upstate softball team turned in a strong 7-2 victory over Jacksonville in game one of the doubleheader, then won a roller coaster of a game in the second, 12-7, to sweep the Dolphins in a key A-Sun twinbill Friday.
Upstate and Jacksonville entered the day tied for second in the A-Sun with 5-1 records. With a pair of wins, the Spartans are now in sole possession of second in the conference. Upstate improved to 23-3 overall and 7-1 in the A-Sun with the sweep Friday. Jacksonville fell to 21-10 overall and 5-3 in the league with the two losses. With the series in hand, Upstate will attempt for the series sweep Saturday when the teams meet at 1:00 p.m.
Upstate scored seven runs on seven hits and two Jacksonville errors in the first game. The Spartans scored 12 runs on 17 hits in the second, finishing the day with 19 runs on 24 hits.
"I was really proud of how Hannah (Alexander) pitched today," said Upstate head coach Chris Hawkins. "She got ahead in the count and limited their opportunities. Jamie (Ujvari), while not having her best stuff, really showed maturity in grinding it out and getting the win in the second game. After our performance at Florida offensively, we came out swinging today and I am proud of our team for that."
After a scoreless first inning, Upstate gained control of the first game of the doubleheader in the second inning. Maddison Kieffer (Middleburg, Fla.) got things going with a one-out triple to right center. One batter later, Dana Landers (Simpsonville, S.C.) put the Spartans on top, 2-0, with a two-run home run to left center. It was her second home run of the season. With the dinger, Landers recorded a hit in 11 of her last 12 games. She has raised her batting average from .258 following the Furman doubleheader on Feb. 27 to .344 entering Friday's games, hitting .424 during that span.
Upstate began to put together some more offense in the fourth inning, putting runners on first second with a walk and a single with no outs. However, Jacksonville starter Taylor Rossman looked to get out of the inning with a strikeout and pop up. Upstate's Jessica Ujvari (Niceville, Fla.), though, reached on a throwing error to load the bases with two outs. Erin Schattle (Goose Creek, S.C.) followed with a bases loaded walk to give the Spartans a 3-0 lead. Rossman got the third out of the inning with a fly out to right, limiting the damage to just one run.
Jacksonville attempted to get back in to the game in the fifth and sixth innings. The Dolphins put runners on first and second in both innings, but Upstate starter Hannah Alexander (Lexington, N.C.) got out of the innings unscathed.
Upstate added to its lead in a big way in the seventh inning. Lindsay Kelly (Jacksonville, Fla.) led off the inning with a single. Schattle followed by reaching base on an error as she was attempting to move Kelly to second on a sacrifice, putting runners at second and third with no outs. A pop fly later, Ericka Harris (Piedmont, S.C.) drove in a run with a single down the line in left to give the Spartans a 4-0 advantage.
Shellie Robinson (DeLand, Fla.) followed with a double off the wall in center to give Upstate a 5-0 lead and put runners on second and third for the second time in the inning. The double chased Jacksonville's Rossman out of the game for Dale Tillman. Griffin followed with a squeeze bunt to bring in pinch runner Mellena Helms (Concord, N.C.) from third for a 6-0 Upstate lead. The Spartans made it a 7-0 advantage on Kieffer's RBI single up the middle.
Jacksonville made some noise in the bottom of the seventh after loading the bases with no outs on two bunt singles and a single to third. Victoria Brown drew a walk with the bases loaded to plate the first run of the game for Jacksonville, cutting Upstate's lead to 7-1 with no outs. Hawkins turned to freshman hurler Jamie Ujvari (Niceville, Fla.) to end the game for the Spartans.
Ujvari struck out the first batter she faced. She then got Jacksonville's biggest bat, Sarah Simon, to fly out to left field with a sacrifice fly as Jacksonville cut the Upstate lead to 7-2 with two outs and runners on first and second. She then struck out the final batter of the game to secure the win for the Spartans.
Alexander tossed six innings of work, pitching into the seventh, to earn the win for Upstate. She allowed two runs on seven hits to improve to 9-2 on the year. Jacksonville's Rossman fell to 2-4 on the year with the loss, allowing seven runs on six hits in 6 1/3 innings of work.
When Alexander picked up her fourth strikeout of the game, she moved into sole possession of second place on Upstate's career strikeouts list. She now has 384 in her career and trails only all-time great Morgan Childers (2008-11), who struck out 1,338 in her career.
Kieffer led the way for Upstate at the plate with three hits. Landers collected a team-best two RBIs in the outing.
Jacksonville struck first in the roller coaster ride which was the second game, plating two runs in the bottom of the first inning. Brown, the starter for the Dolphins in game two, singled to lead off the inning and advanced to second on a wild pitch. After a sacrifice moved her over third, Simon doubled to right center to drive her in and give the Dolphins an early 1-0 advantage. Karson Tuck followed with an RBI double to center to give Jacksonville a 2-0 lead. Upstate starter Anna Miller (Portland, Ore.) was replaced by relief pitcher Sam Poarch (Jacksonville, Fla.) with two outs and a runner on second in the first. Poarch got Meagen Balding to line out to left to get the Spartans out of the inning.
Needing to respond, Upstate did just that in the top of the second inning. Kieffer led off with a single and Landers' attempted sacrifice bunt went for a single to put runners on first and second. With the hit, she has hit safely in 12 of the last 13 games.
After a strikeout, Kieffer moved to third on Helms' foul out to right, putting runners on first and third with two outs. Hayley Reinfeld (Parkland, Fla.) slapped a single through the left side to bring Kieffer home and cut the Jacksonville lead to 2-1. Meredith Barnes (Salem, Ore.) followed with a two-run double to right center to put the Spartans on top, 3-2.
Jacksonville responded in the bottom of the second, taking the lead back at 4-3 on Brown's two-run home run to left center. The Dolphins again capitalized with the home run when Balding connected on a two-run homer in the third inning to give the Dolphins a 6-3 lead.
Upstate rallied in the fourth to retake the lead. The Spartans put runners on first and second with no outs with a pair of infield singles. Barnes reached on a fielder's choice, but all runners were safe on the play to load the bases with one out and Harris at the plate. The senior catcher drove in a run on a sacrifice fly to center, cutting the Dolphin lead to 6-4 and putting runners on second and third with two outs. Robinson then connected on a long ball of her own, belting a three-run bomb to give the Spartans a 7-6 lead.
Jacksonville threatened in the bottom of the fourth. The Dolphins put runners on first and second with no outs before Ujvari induced a pop up on a bunt attempt for the first out of the inning and struck out Simon for the second out. However, Ashley Simon singled to center to bring in a run and tie the game at 7-7.
The top of the fifth came and it was Upstate's turn to make something happen. The Spartans put runners on the corners on a single, sacrifice and single when Helms delivered with an RBI single to give Upstate an 8-7 lead.
Ujvari came through for Upstate when the Spartans needed her to, making a statement in the bottom of the fifth. Jacksonville had scored in each of the previous four innings, but the freshman retired the side in order in the fifth to protect the 8-7 lead.
The Upstate bats gave Ujvari a little breathing room in the sixth. Robinson doubled down the line in left with one out and scored when Griffin reached on an error to center as the Spartans opened a 9-7 lead. Ujvari came through again in the bottom of the sixth, retiring the side in order for the second consecutive inning.
Upstate padded its lead in the seventh inning. After putting runners on first and second with one out, Barnes singled up the middle to score a run and give the Spartans a 10-7 lead. She took second on the throw. Upstate made it an 11-7 lead when Reinfeld scored on a wild pitch. Barnes scored to make it a 12-7 lead on Robinson's infield single.
Ujvari retired the side in order in the seventh for the third straight inning. She went six innings, allowing five runs on six hits with six strikeouts to earn the win for Upstate. She improved to a perfect 10-0 on the year with the win. Brown went the distance for Jacksonville, allowing 12 runs on 15 hits to fall to 7-4 on the year.
Four Spartans finished the game with two hits (Barnes, Kieffer, Settlemyre and Helms), while Robinson picked up four hits in the game to lead the Spartans at the plate.