TAMPA, Fla. – A dominant late-inning performance from Jacksonville softball freshman pitcher Seana Mora sealed a 5-4 victory over Yale in game one; however, the Dolphins were unable to fight their way back after a big third inning from USF slowed JU's momentum and fell 9-6 to the hosts, Wednesday.
Allie McCourt used her speed to threaten extra bases and distract the Bulldogs after a fielding error from the Yale (1-11) second baseman allowed Makenzie Buss to scoot home in the top of the ninth for the game-winner, 5-4.
"The fight we showed late was really great," said Head Coach Jennifer Steele. "We've proven countless times that we're able to battle back when we get behind early. We had some great performances from Seana [Mora] and Jordan [Daniels] as well."
Freshman Seana Mora (2-1) faced the minimum number of Bulldogs through the final 1.2 innings and struck out one swinging to seal the Dolphins' victory.
Tied at 1-1 heading into extra innings, Jacksonville took the lead after Carolyn O'Neal scored on a Bulldog fielding error. Heather Roberts and Madison Ragan both brought Dolphins across the plate for end the top of the 8th with a 4-1 lead.
The Bulldogs refused to go down without a fight and countered with a bases-loaded walk followed by a two-RBI double from pinch hitter Terra Jerpbak to knot the game at 4-4 with one down.
Yale took an early 1-0 lead after a solo shot to left in the bottom of the second gave the Bulldogs an early 1-0 lead.
However, the top of the fifth proved fruitful for the Dolphins as hometown girl Bethany Kursch led off with a double to left field. Kamille Larrabee came in to pinch run for Kursch and Jordan Daniels drew a walk with one out to get two Dolphins on. Allie McCourt hit a blooper just inside the grass behind second to bring Larrabee home and tie the game at 1-1.
"We missed a lot of opportunities early in the ball game to put Yale away; we stranded quite a few base runners," added Steele. "We need to be more consistent in earlier innings and not make it so hard on ourselves late."
vs. South Florida
Jacksonville tallied runs in the first, second, and sixth innings, but a five-run third inning from USF (17-11) gave the Bulls a lead they didn't relinquish despite the Dolphins' efforts.
Jacksonville started game two on the right foot as Ragan used a hard hit ball down the right field line to score Danielle Baker and Roberts in the top of the first for an early 2-0 lead. In the top of the next inning, Baker drove in Hodskins and Roberts hit a sacrifice fly to right field to get O'Neal across the plate for a 4-0 Dolphin advantage.
South Florida rallied back in the bottom of the third with five runs, including a three-run triple, to take a 5-4 lead. The Bulls then added insurance tallies in the bottom of the fifth on back-to-back solo home runs.
Daniels added a huge stop in the bottom of the fifth after she backhanded a hard hit ball out of the dirt in front of third base and threw a laser over to first to catch the runner for the second out.
"When it felt like a big moment, Jordan was able to make the stop for us," noted Steele. "She looked back door and got two or three runners who were aggressive and got stranded."
Despite stellar defense on the hot corner from Daniels, the Bulls used back-to-back home runs in the bottom of the frame for a 7-4 advantage.
Ragan took a bases-loaded walk in the top of the sixth to get a Dolphin run back and Daniels took an inside pitch on the shoulder to carousel two Dolphins in and close the gap, 7-6. The Bulls countered with a two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the inning for a little breathing room to seal the win, 9-6.
The Dolphins used four pitchers in the game and Ragan suffered the loss to fall to 2-3 in the circle.
"We really hurt ourselves in the circle. We were consistently behind on the count and struggled to give our hitters a chance. It's tough to play from behind against a good team," added Steele.
Ragan finish 3-for-6 at the plate with a double, two walks, and three RBI. Roberts (3-for-6) added two doubles and two RBI. McCourt also drove in two runs.
The Dolphins return to Debbie & Fred Pruitt Softball Complex Friday, March 17 and play host to George Mason and Columbia for the 2017 Jacksonville Invitational. Neutral site games between the Patriots and Lions are slated for 12:00 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Friday. The Dolphins hit the diamond at 12:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 18 for a 2:30 p.m. contest with Columbia, followed by a 5:00 p.m. matchup with George Mason.