Softball: Owls lose their first game this season in 11-inning thriller

The team wins 4-of-5 this weekend, improving to 13-1

Christina+Martinez+runs+to+first+base+after+making+contact+during+the+Owls%27+game+versus+Penn+State+on+Feb.+14.+Ryan+Lynch+%7C+Multimedia+Editor

Christina Martinez runs to first base after making contact during the Owls’ game versus Penn State on Feb. 14. Ryan Lynch | Multimedia Editor

Chris Libreros, Contributing Writer

Florida Atlantic softball took its first loss this weekend at the FAU Invitational in an 11-inning game against Maryland on Saturday night, snapping a 12-game winning streak —the best start in the program’s history.

But the Owls wouldn’t stay down for long, bouncing back with a 4-3 comeback victory in their very next outing against Boston University in an eight-inning game.

The Owls won four of their five matchups this weekend behind solid pitching and clutch hitting to improve their record to 13-1.

In their first three games, FAU combined to outscore its opponents 15-1 behind pitching from junior Kylee Hanson, junior Amanda Wilson, and sophomore Tatum Buckley.

A 6-1 victory over Stony Brook started the weekend. FAU followed that with back-to-back shutouts of Michigan State in 3-0 and 6-0 wins.

“When your pitchers are throwing two hitters and not walking anybody either … it’s just a matter of us trying to make them make mistakes or get some base hits and score some runs,” Head coach Joan Joyce said when asked about the team’s performance following her team’s shutout on Friday.

These strong pitching performances were followed by two consecutive games in which the Owls had to fight for extra innings against Maryland and Boston University.

Hanson led the team with 17 strikeouts over the weekend.

The Owls will travel to Las Vegas on Wednesday for a five-game weekend tournament.

Here’s a recap of each game:

Game One: Stony Brook 1, FAU 6

In its first game of the FAU Invitational tournament, the Florida Atlantic softball team bested Stony Brook University 6-1, extending its winning streak to 10 games to open the 2016 season.

The Owls pitcher, Buckley, notched four strikeouts in a complete game where she allowed only four hits and one run for her third win of the season.

Offensively, the Owls didn’t crack the seal until the third inning when a pair of hits and four Stony Brook  (3-6)  errors added up to three runs for the Owls.

The first of the runs came by way of a fielding error that allowed freshman outfielder Madisyn Palmer to score an unearned run and set up a bases loaded scenario for senior second baseman Melissa Martinez with only one out. Martinez capitalized and hit a double that scored two runs.

Martinez would finish the game hitting 2-for-3.

Following a fifth inning run scored by SBU freshman Danielle Kemp, the Owls answered with another three-run inning in the seventh that ballooned their lead to 6-1 behind Buckley’s two-run triple, ultimately closing the book on game one of the weekend for FAU.

Game Two: Michigan State 0, FAU 3

In the second game of Friday night, FAU’s ace, Hanson, pitched a two-hit complete game shutout against a Michigan State team that had won 7-0 against Stony Brook earlier in the same night.

Pitching was solid on both sides, as Hanson and MSU sophomore pitcher Kristina Zalewski each striking out eight batters.

Similar to their first game, FAU found a way to open up its scoring in the third inning, when senior third baseman Carnesha Thompson hit a two-run home run to center field to give the Owls a 2-0 lead.

The Owls would extend their lead over the Spartans when Melissa Martinez scored for her second time of the night off of a wild pitch to help the Owls earn their second win of the night.

Game Three: FAU 6, Michigan State 0

In the two teams second meeting of the weekend, FAU got its bats going early, scoring in the first inning of play after a sacrifice fly by freshman shortstop Emily Lochten brought in junior right fielder Delaney Rickey.

The Owls would score again in the third with Lochten and senior center fielder Christina Martinez making it home to push the Owl lead to three before the Owls exploded in the fifth inning to double their score.

The three runs FAU scored in the fifth were behind hits from Lochten, Christina Martinez and junior utility player Sarah Bencivenga, effectively closing the book on Michigan State in their final meeting of the tournament.

Wilson earned her third win in three starts behind a complete game that saw the Spartans record four hits in the game.

Game Four: Maryland 8, FAU 7

FAU came into its second game of Saturday’s back-to-back with a 12-0 record; the best start in FAU’s history.

That streak would come to an end following a loss in a back and forth game that saw the Owls fight for their survival before ultimately falling just short after 11 innings of play.

Maryland came out of the gate aggressively, earning two runs off a homerun to left field from junior Kristina Dillard.

The Owls would strike back in the second behind a sacrifice bunt from Buckley that brought home Lochten before taking the lead in the fourth inning behind two additional runs.

Lochten and Melissa Martinez would both score on unearned runs off of Maryland errors to give the Owls a 3-2 lead heading into the fifth.

Maryland would regain control of the game in the fifth after two runs were scored pushing its lead to 4-3.

From this point on, the game turned into a uphill battle, with FAU scoring in clutch situation after clutch situation with runs coming in the seventh, ninth, and 10th innings, all to keep the Owls alive before falling short in the 11th.

Maryland earned two runs behind a single that led to shortstop Sky Eliazar narrowly beating a throw to home, scoring the eventual game winner.

After three narrow escapes from loss number one, the Owls nearly pulled off a fourth comeback when a throwing error opened the door to a one-run game. However, FAU ran out of magic, losing its first game of the season.

The game was the Owls first loss in extra innings since a 5-4, 10-inning loss to North Texas in the Conference USA Tournament in 2014.

Game Five: Boston University 3, FAU 4

After losing their only game this season in a shootout with Maryland, the Owls closed out for their last game of the weekend in another extra-inning thriller.

Both teams started slow through the first couple innings of play until the Owls drew first blood in the bottom of the third, scoring off a Christina Martinez ground ball that gave the Owls their first lead of the game.

The Terriers responded, scoring three runs in the fourth inning behind two RBI doubles from freshman catcher Alex Heinen and sophomore infielder Kaitlin Sahlinger extending their lead to 3-1.

In the seventh inning, clutch hitting kept FAU alive yet again after Thompson doubled to right center field to bring in the second run of the seventh, tying the game at three and forcing extra innings for the second game in a row.

The Owls would only need one more inning to close out the game this time.

In the eighth, they shut down Boston by allowing no hits and scoring the game-winning run on a fielder’s choice sacrifice bunt RBI from Buckley that sent Lochten home.

The Owls made a change at pitcher relieving Buckley in the sixth with Hanson.

Hanson would go on to leave the Terriers scoreless through the final three innings of play to alter the outcome in this 4-3 win and cap off the weekend for the Owls.

Christopher Libreros is a contributing writer with the University Press. To contact him regarding this or other stories, he can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter.