Long-ball powers Patriot Softball past Erskine

Long-ball powers Patriot Softball past Erskine

DUE WEST, SC – Francis Marion University used a pair of home runs from senior first basemen Shannan Lopez to sweep a doubleheader, 9-3 and 3-2, from Erskine College, Thursday (Feb. 25) in non-conference softball action.

Francis Marion (10-4) opens Peach Belt Conference play with a twinbill at USC Aiken on Saturday before returning home to entertain Mars Hill University on Sunday at 1 p.m. at the FMU Softball Stadium.  The game was originally scheduled to be played on February 15, but was postponed due to weather conditions.

In Thursday's first game, FMU senior right-hander Shelby Kelley (5-3) pitched a complete game and received plenty of offensive support to pick up her second consecutive win. Kelley allowed three runs on six hits, while striking out three batters and walking three.

The Patriots plated a pair of runs in the first inning against the Flying Fleet thanks to back-to-back RBI groundouts from Lopez and freshman shortstop Taylor Johnson. Leading 2-0, FMU would tack on another pair of runs in the top of the fourth inning.

Junior second baseman Taylor Brunson doubled down the right-field line and would later score as a throw to second base looked to catch a runner trying to swipe a base. Later in the inning, junior center fielder Mikala Barnhart made it 4-0 when she scored on a throwing miscue from the Erskine catcher.

FMU answered a three-run bottom of the fifth inning from the Flying Fleet with a four-run top of the sixth inning. After seeing their lead cut to 5-3, the Patriots used the long-ball to once again widen the gap. With two runners on base, Lopez would get a pitch to her liking and sent it over the fence for her first home run of the season – and capping-off a four-RBI game – to give the Patriots an 8-3 lead.

Johnson would follow Lopez with a home run of her own, her first of the season, to put the Patriots ahead 9-3. Junior left fielder Briana Barzola, freshman catcher Chelsea Welty, Johnson, and Barnhart each finished with two hits for the Patriots.

Erskine senior righty Kaylin White (1-2) took the loss for the Flying Fleet (6-6), tossing four innings. White allowed four runs on six hits and walked two. Sophomore second baseman Sydney Smith finished the game 1-for-4 with a pair of runs batted in. Sophomore Mia Blochviak, who went 1-for-2, drove in the other run for the Flying Fleet.

Pitching would be the dominant factor early in the second game. FMU sophomore righty Samantha Wroblewski (5-1) allowed only four hits and one earned run in five innings. Kelley entered the game in the sixth inning with a runner on first and no outs. She would need a strikeout to end the inning after issuing a two-out walk to put runners on first and second.

Francis Marion took a 1-0 lead in the top of the fifth when Barnhart reached base on a catcher's interference call. The bases-loaded situation plated Brunson, who kicked-off the inning with the Patriots' first hit of the game. The Flying Fleet would take a 2-1 lead in the bottom half of the inning on a double by senior Christine Long.

The Patriots, not to be outdone, would tie the game in the top of the sixth on a solo home run from Lopez. FMU kept its foot on the gas pedal as Johnson laced a double into the right-center field gap. She would later score on an error by the third baseman to give the Patriots a 3-2 advantage.

Erskine seemed poised to knot the game once again in the bottom portion of the frame, leading-off with a single down the left field line. The hit would chase Wroblewski from the game and pave the way for Kelley to enter in a save situation. Kelley would retire the first two batters she faced before allowing a runner to reach base via a walk.  With the potential tying run in scoring position, she would stay composed and strike out the next back to end the inning and strand a pair of runners.

Kelley would have to duplicate the same effort in the bottom of the seventh inning, as a hit with two outs gave the Flying Fleet a pair of baserunners. A swinging strike-three would put an end to any late game rally for Erskine as FMU picked up the 3-2 victory.

Lopez led FMU offensively with a home run in each game and a total of five RBIs. Johnson combined to finish 3-for-7 at the dish, with two RBIs and three runs scored.

Erskine junior right-hander Candace Fitch (4-3) was handed with the game-two loss, going the full seven innings. She allowed one earned run on four hits, striking out five batters and walking three.

Francis Marion 9, Erskine College 3 (Feb 25, 2016 at Due West, SC) (Game 1)
Francis Marion...... 200 214 0 -  9 12  0      (9-4)
Erskine College..... 000 030 0 -  3  6  2      (6-5)
Pitchers: Francis Marion - Shelby Kelley and Chelsea Welty. Erskine College - Kaylin White;
Sheridan Butcher(5); Danica Newton(6) and Britton Young; Kaitlyn Kerley.
Win-Shelby Kelley(5-3)  Loss-Kaylin White(1-2)  T-2:20  A-45
HR FMU_SB - Shannan Lopez (1); Taylor Johnson (1).


Francis Marion 3, Erskine College 2 (Feb 25, 2016 at Due West, SC) (Game 2)
Francis Marion...... 000 012 0 -  3  4  1      (10-4)
Erskine College..... 000 020 0 -  2  5  4      (6-6)
Pitchers: Francis Marion - Samantha Wroblewski; Shelby Kelley(6) and Chelsea Welty.
Erskine College - Candace Fitch and Christine Long.
Win-Samantha Wroblewski(5-1)  Save-Shelby Kelley(3)  Loss-Candace Fitch(4-3)  T-2:10  A-0
HR FMU_SB - Shannan Lopez (2).
Wroblewski faced 1 batter in the 6th.