CLEARWATER – Head coach Chris Bellotto hadn't planned to lead off the season with a game against the #3 ranked team in the country and defending South Region champions, but that's the way things broke when rain washed out the Moccasins' first two games one day earlier. The upside to that was it gave her a chance to see how her new team measured up right away against one of the best teams in Division II. They measured up very well. Though Florida Southern dropped a 3-2 decision to Shorter, the Moccasins got a very good pitching performance from junior Brandi Jones, clutch hitting from several newcomers, and strong defense across the board.
In game two Sunday, Florida Southern lost another 3-2 decision to Eckerd in a non-conference game. That too saw an outstanding game by junior pitcher Hannah Loyer, who gave up just three hits and two earned runs, while junior Beri Scott went 3-for-3 at the plate.
Jones scattered seven hits in her complete game effort, striking out three and walking two. The Hawks (3-1), who reached the Division II National semifinals last year, scored all three of their runs against her in the top of the fifth before the Moccasins (0-2) came back with both of theirs in the bottom of the sixth. The Mocs then got the winning run into scoring position in the seventh but were unable to get it home.
Jones held the Hawks to two hits through the first four innings before they used three hits and a walk to score three times in the fifth. One of those was a softly hit ball by Maddie Hunt into the hole at shortstop that preceded a walk to Niki Cook. Kendall Johnson then launched a double into deep left center that cleared the bases and gave Shorter all three of its runs.
Freshman pitcher Payton Lippert held the Moccasins to only one hit through five innings, but in the sixth a single by freshman Makayla Deuberry and an error that allowed sophomore Ashlyn Worcester to reach put the Mocs' first two batters on base and led to two runs. Junior college transfer Sydney Koch drove in the first one with an infield single and a double by another JC transfer, Katie Patterson, plated the second one.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Mocs got a 1-out walk from freshman Zierra Flodman followed by a single from junior Dana Mackiewicz. Both runners moved up on a ground out by Deuberry, but Lippert was able to end the game on another ground out by Worcester.
All five of Florida Southern's hits came from either transfers (Koch, Patterson, and Mackiewicz) or freshmen (Flodman and Deuberry). Flodman also had the Mocs' only walk and as the catcher was facing a team that stole 128 bases a year ago. The Hawks attempted only one stolen base again her but Flodman was equal to the task, throwing out Hunt in the third inning. The Mocs also got some sharp defense from several other players, including Koch at second, and Mackiewicz, Worcester and senior Jordan Alexander in the outfield who were battling tricky winds all morning.
In the second game, Flodman gave the Mocs a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first when her ground out drove in Alexander who had walked to lead off the inning, stolen second, and moved to third on a base hit by junior Erica Morrissey. Eckerd evened the score in the second though after a leadoff walk of its own, with a ground ball by Janna Gaburo driving in Rachael Luckett.
The Tritons (1-1-1) went ahead 3-1 in the top of the fourth by scoring on an error and a sacrifice fly by Gaburo.
The Moccasins got one back in the bottom of the fourth when Scott and junior Erin Klein had back-to-back 2-out singles. Scott then scored on an error to make the score 3-2, but Eckerd pitcher Nikole Van Gennep shut them out the rest of the way.
The Mocs out-hit the Tritons 7-3 in the game, with Scott picking up three of those hits and Morrissey collecting two.
Loyer finished with seven strikeouts and five walks, while Van Gennep struck out five and walked one.
Florida Southern will play its 2016 home opener on Wednesday when it hosts Spring Hill (AL) in a doubleheader beginning at 4 p.m.