DeLand, Fla. - The Stetson softball team (21-14, 6-4 Atlantic Sun) extended its winning streak to four games by sweeping visiting A-Sun rival Mercer (24-18, 5-5 A-Sun) 6-3 and 6-4 Thursday evening at Patricia Wilson Field. Junior catcher Jordan Cleghorn (Ball Ground, Ga.) and freshman third baseman Demi Meza (Oxnard, Calif.) sparked the Hatters with a combined 7-12 performance at the plate with three doubles, five RBI and Cleghorn's third home run of the season.
Stetson improved to 52-14 all-time against its oldest conference rival and ran its Patricia Wilson Field winning streak over the Bears to five games, dating back to 2008. The sweep vaulted the Hatters into third place in the A-Sun standings and within one game of Kennesaw State, who will visit Stetson for a doubleheader on Saturday. Stetson also surpassed its 2011 win total of 19 games tonight.
GAME 1 - STETSON 6, MERCER 3
The Hatters spotted Mercer an unearned run in the top of the first before getting to work against Bears starting pitcher Kassie Bailey with four runs in the bottom of the first inning. Stetson accomplished that entire rally with two outs and nobody on base. Freshman pitcher Courtney Brandt (Dade City, Fla.) tied for the team lead with her fifth home run of the season, a two-run shot to right center, while a two-out error and a Cleghorn RBI single made it 4-1 Stetson after one full inning.
Mercer changed pitchers to Kerri Nidiffer to start the second inning, but the Hatters kept rolling for two more runs. Brandt delivered a one-out RBI double that brought in senior pinch runner Grace Turner (Fort Myers, Fla.) and junior right fielder Chelsea Whalley (Calgary, Alta.) brought in the final run with a bases loaded RBI groundout.
Brandt held the Bears off the scoreboard in the second, third and fourth frames, but Mercer used back-to-back solo homers from third baseman Randi Rea and second baseman Krista Kennedy leading off the top of the fifth to draw within 6-3. One batter later, sophomore Meredith Owen (Jackson, Miss.) was called on to relieve Brandt; she immediately induced Mercer first baseman Kristin Marko to ground into a double play and the Bears never truly threatened again.
Brandt earned the win with four innings of seven-hit softball, striking out three in the process. Owen tossed three scoreless relief frames to earn her second save of the season. Bailey took the loss in the circle for the Bears. Brandt drove in three runs on her fifth homer and sixth double of 2012; Meza and sophomore center fielder Chrissy Morello (Ormond Beach, Fla.) also had two base hits for Stetson. Mercer center fielder McKenzie Woody went three for four with a run scored to pace the Bears in Game 1.
GAME 2 - STETSON 6, MERCER 4
Mercer again struck first in the nightcap with a Marko RBI double in the top of the second, but the Hatters would answer back with authority, scoring six runs on five hits in the bottom of that inning.
Meza doubled to left field off Bailey with one out and the bases loaded, bringing in two runs, followed immediately by Owen rocketing a single down the left field line to drive in two more. The Bears again made the switch to Nidiffer in the circle, but although she would retire the first batter she faced, Cleghorn put an exclamation point on the inning with a two-run shot over the left center field fence to make it 6-1. The home run was Cleghorn's third of the year.
Owen went the distance and made that six-run outburst stand up all night, but Mercer made things scary by scoring three runs before making an out in the top of the sixth. Two singles and a walk led to catcher Molly Garmany driving Owen's first pitch to the base of the wall in right center; all three runners scored to make it a 6-4 ballgame.
Owen responded excellently to that challenge, striking out four of Mercer's last six hitters to deliver Stetson its second consecutive A-Sun sweep. She struck out eight in a complete game win, scattering four runs on seven hits and two walks. Cleghorn and Meza had two hits each for the Hatters, including their fourth doubles of the year each, with Owen joining them in the two-RBI column. Whalley stole a base in each game and now has four on the season. Garmany and right fielder Tiffany Phillips had two hits each for the Bears.
Stetson celebrates Senior Day and honors the careers of Turner, Carolyn Boyd (Germantown, Tenn.), Brittany Knipp (Land O'Lakes, Fla.), Alyssa Oddo (Covina, Calif.) and Chelsey Trotto (Lantana, Fla.) before hosting Kennesaw State in a 1:00 pm Saturday doubleheader at Patricia Wilson Field. Live Stats and Hatter Vision will be available at GoHatters.com.
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