JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (April 13, 2007) - The ETSU softball team pushed its winning streak to a season-high six straight games, but more importantly the Bucs moved into sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Sun standings after sweeping Jacksonville Friday evening at the JU Softball Complex. In game one, the Bucs broke a 9-9 tie as they scored four times in the seventh inning to pick up the 13-9 win, and rallied back in the second game by scoring five times in the final two innings for the 8-6 victory.
ETSU (22-20, 9-3) now holds a two-game lead over Kennesaw State in the conference standings after the Owls split with Belmont Friday afternoon. Jacksonville dropped to 14-34, 3-7 in the Atlantic Sun.
The Bucs took an early 2-0 lead in game one, as senior Stephanie Gaynord (Manassas, Va.) led off the game with a single to right and freshman Katy Jett (Talbot, Tenn.) reached on a fielder's choice on the following play. Both runners moved up a base thanks to a throwing error by Jacksonville's Sara Gordon, and both scored on Jessie Hackworth's (Clinton, Tenn.) single up the middle.
Jacksonville plated a run in the bottom half of the inning and took its first lead of the game by scoring two more runs in the third. The Dolphins scored their first run when Patricia Melo stole home, and gained the lead on RBI singles by Ashley Mora and Gordon.
In the fourth, ETSU recaptured the lead thanks to the big bat of Hackworth, as her two-out double drove in Gaynord and Jett, giving them a 4-3 advantage. However, Jacksonville rallied back to take a 7-4 lead in the bottom of the inning, scoring four runs on three hits. Sophomore Mary Catherine Vercoe (Signal Mountain, Tenn.) lasted only 3.1 innings after allowing a two-run single to Mora, but freshman Marissa Hardy (Rocklin, Calif.) entered in relief and did enough in the circle to keep the Bucs close. Things looked shaky at first for Hardy as she surrendered back-to-back walks, leading to the Dolphins third run of the inning, and then a dropped fly by Cheniece Cason (Moreno Valley, Calif.) in left produced the fourth run. However, Hardy left the sacks full as she recorded her only two strikeouts of the game to end the fourth.
From there, the Buccaneer offense kicked into high gear as they plated one run in the fifth, and then scored a total of eight runs between the sixth and seventh innings. With the bases loaded, Briana Knight (Brier, Wash.) and Caitlin Zyskowski (Grand Rapids, Mich.) drove in ETSU's first two runs in the sixth, with their back-to-back singles up the middle, which tied the game at seven. The Bucs took a 9-7 lead when Hardy doubled down the right field line, scoring Knight and Zyskowski. All four of ETSU's runs came with two outs in the inning.
The Dolphins were not done scoring as they tied the game nine; however Jacksonville's Gordon tried to advance home for the go-ahead run, but was gunned down by Gaynord at the plate to end the inning. ETSU finally put the game away in the final frame, as the first six Buc batters reached base. Amanda Haverman (Kirkwood, Mo.) and (Jessie) Hackworth gave ETSU an 11-9 lead as each doubled in a run, and Knight ended the scoring attack by driving in her second and third runs of the game with her triple to right.
Hardy improved to 2-0 after forcing Jillian Mirante to hit into a double play to end the game. The freshman pitcher allowed two runs on six hits in 3.2 innings for the victory. Hackworth and Knight combined to drive in eight of the 13 ETSU runs as Hackworth ended with five RBI and Knight finished with three. Jacksonville's Shannon Jensen suffered the loss. ETSU tied a school record with 17 hits and tied its season-high with 13 runs.
In the second game, the Bucs jumped out to an early 1-0 lead as Hackworth continued to drive in runs when her single scored Jett from second. However, Jacksonville tagged Darci Gilbert (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) for three runs in the second to take a 3-1 lead.
Like in game one, ETSU rallied back as Gaynord's two-run homer tied the game at three. Jacksonville quickly regained the lead by scoring three more times in the fourth, but Hardy entered in relief in the fifth and kept the Dolphin batters in check. The Buccaneer bats then came to life again in the final two frames to pick up their sixth consecutive victory. ETSU scored four runs in the sixth and tacked an extra run on the board in the seventh, giving them the 8-6 win. Cheniece Cason scored the winning run when she stole home in the sixth.
Hardy earned her third win of the season by pitching three scoreless innings and recorded seven of her nine outs via the strikeout. The seven strikeouts by Hardy set a new career best, and are the most this season by an ETSU pitcher. Hackworth extended her hitting streak to eight games, going 5-for-7 with two doubles and six RBI on Friday, while Haverman tied the school record with her four-hit performance.
The Bucs resume action Saturday afternoon when they play two against UNF. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. at the UNF Softball Complex.