March 2, 2012
LAS VEGAS, NV - The Florida Atlantic softball team traveled three time zones away and was able to complete a doubleheader sweep in their opening games of the 2012 Eller Media Stadium Classic.
Game one did not come without some late-inning drama, however.
In the opener, against Illinois, Taylor Fawbush was spotless through her first 5 1/3 innings of work, only giving up four hits while her offense staked her to a 5-0 lead.
The Owls got there by scoring twice in each of the 4th and 5th innings. Alexa Ballard and pinch-hitter Jordan Stovall each had run-scoring singles in the fourth, and a bases-loaded walk to Ballard, followed by Whitley Herb getting hit by a pitch, made it 4-0 after five innings.
Illinois cut it to 5-3 with a bases-loaded double in their half of the 6th. But the Owls still looked as if they had it in hand as the first two batters in the 7th were retired, before an Illini runner reached on a fielding error. Three batters later, it was all tied up at 5-5.
International tiebreaker rules applied in the extra 8th frame, and FAU used that to their advantage. With Herb at second, Sarah Howell reached on a bunt single. Barnes sacrificed them both over, and Fawbush helped her own cause with a 2-run double, her third double of the game. Call followed with an insurance run-scoring single, making it 8-5 Owls, and Fawbush was buoyed by a lineout double play to end the game in the bottom of the frame to pick up her first win of the season.
In game two against Seton Hall, after the Pirates got on the board in the top of the 1st inning, the Owls got two of their own in the bottom, for a lead they wouldn't relinquish. Barnes led off and reached on a hit by pitch, and was driven in on a single off the bat of Fawbush. Then Ballard came through with a 2-out double to knock in Fawbush for the lead.
Another run was plated in the 4th inning on an opposite field home run, the first of the season, by Barnes. Then after Seton Hall cut it to 3-2, Barnes knocked in her second run of the game with a double in the 6th inning, her third hit in as many at-bats, to score Herb.
Freshman Paige Pender got her third win of the season in four decisions by scattering eight Pirate hits and two runs in a complete game victory. Three double plays by her defense, including a nice running catch by centerfielder Lindsey Shell (making her FAU debut after suffering a preseason injury) that doubled off a Seton Hall runner in the 6th, aided in the victory.
The 5-11 Owls, with four wins in their last five games, will play at 2:15 Eastern time on Saturday against New Mexico State, and then be back at it against the host school, UNLV, at 6:45. Live audio and stats from both games as well as Sunday's finale can be found on FAUSports.com.
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