WINTER PARK, Fla. – After breaking out in a big way for a season-high 11 runs at home on Friday night, the Nova Southeastern Sharks (3-7) carried their suddenly hot bats on the road with them to Winter Park for a Sunshine State Conference doubleheader at Rollins’ Alfond Field, winning the first game, 10-4, to clinch the series victory, before going cold in the nightcap, falling 2-0.
INSIDE THE MATCHUP:
Game 1 Final Score: Nova Southeastern – 10, Rollins – 4
Game 2 Final Score: Rollins – 2, Nova Southeastern – 0 (7 inn.)
Records: Rollins (8-6, 8-5 SSC), Nova Southeastern (3-7, 3-7 SSC)
Location: Alfond Stadium, Winter Park, Fla.
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HOW IT HAPPENED:
The Sharks wasted no time in the first game, putting up a quick two runs in their first at bats. Tyler Epstein led off the game with a walk, followed by an Alejandro Macario double to put them both in scoring position. Andrew Labosky drove one in with a single up the middle, then Michael Uz used an RBI groundout to score the second.
After a leadoff walk for the Tars, NSU starter J.P. Williams prevented the Rollins from matching, with a couple of key strikeouts to leave a runner at third. Rollins got one back in the second inning instead on a leadoff home run, but Williams extinguished another scoring chance, stranding two on base with one out, and using that momentum to settle into a groove, retiring 10 of 11 batters faced from that point through the second out in the bottom of the fifth.
Meanwhile, the offense was in the process of putting the game out of reach for the second day in a row, this time with a pair of crooked innings. It began with a two-out rally in the fourth, with a walk drawn by Daniel Irisarri and an Olivier Mayrand single. Stephen Schissler then blasted an opposite-field, three-run shot. After back-to-back doubles by Epstein and Macario, the Tars turned to the bullpen with the Sharks in front, 6-1. The Sharks went back to work the next inning when Uz and Alex Steinbach led off with singles through the hole into left field. Mayrand drove in Uz with another single into left field, then Epstein imitated Schissler from the inning before, with another two-out, three-run, opposite-field home run to almost the exact same spot past the right field wall.
The Tars got back on the board in the bottom half with their second longball of the game, this one a two-run shot, but Williams rebounded with a 1-2-3 inning, completing the sixth for the first time this season. His final line was three runs on five hits and two walks, with seven strikeouts in six frames for the quality start.
Jeremy Cook took over for the seventh, avoiding the potential damage of a bases-loaded, one-out situation with a pair of groundouts to allow just one run in. The rain started to come in the eighth inning, and with two outs in the Rollins half, the game was interrupted by a lightning delay, which lasted approximately 75 minutes. Cook, having settled down from his early control issues with four straight retired before the delay, came back as if nothing had happened, retiring four more to finish the game, securing the rare three-inning save with his best performance as a Shark: one run, one hit, two walks and three strikeouts.
The second game was a fast-paced pitcher’s duel, appreciated by many, considering the extra time added to the day’s proceedings. Starter Brady Acker left two in scoring position with a strikeout in the bottom of the first, starting his own stretch of 10 out of 11 batters retired, including 1-2-3 innings in both the third and fourth.
The Sharks had a chance to break the tie in the third, when Schissler doubled down the left field line and advanced an extra base on a wild pitch, but he was unable to get those extra 90 feet. It was Rollins finally breaking the ice in the fifth, first on a squeeze bunt with a runner on third, followed by a double and an RBI single, both with two outs. Reliever Matt Kavanaugh put out the fire with a strikeout and a 1-2-3 sixth to give the Sharks a chance. However, after a leadoff single, a bang-bang double play stung a little extra, and a pop-up with a new runner on second ended the inning. In the seventh and final frame, Irisarri kept hope alive with a two-out single to bring up Kolbe Aven, who sent the ball all the way to the warning track in right-center, where it hung up just enough for the right fielder to catch it.
STATS OF THE DAY
- Epstein posted his third consecutive three-hit performance in the first game, finishing the week with a .588/.632/.941 line and three extra-base hits (one double, one triple, one homer) out of his 10 total, resulting in eight RBI and five runs scored.
- The Sharks reached double-digit runs in consecutive games for the first time since the last two games of the shortened 2020 season (12 vs. Concordia on March 7 and 13 vs. Assumption on March 8), and the first time in back-to-back wins since a three-game streak from April 20-26 in 2019, when they defeated Eckerd (12-9), Palm Beach Atlantic (12-8) and Florida Southern (13-3), the first and last of those games both being in SSC play.
- With seven more strikeouts, J.P. Williams is now up to 22 on the season in just 15.2 innings across three starts, after 23 in five starts totaling 22.2 innings last season.
- Jeremy Cook earned the first save of the season by a Sharks pitcher, and the first three-inning save since Jarret Krzyzanowski in an 8-1 win at West Florida on March 2 last season.
- The offense reached season highs in hits (14), extra-base hits (6), and doubles (4), with their third multi-home run game of the year and second in a row.
- Once again, they also came through in clutch situations that have previously been their downfall: 6-for-17 with runners in scoring position and 8-for-18 with two outs.
- In the nightcap, Brady Acker had his longest start of the year, at 4.2 innings, with a season-high six strikeouts, as well.
- The teams combined for just seven hits in the seven-inning game, half as many as the Sharks had by themselves in the first game. The game took just 1:35 to complete, 20 minutes longer than the lightning delay that held up the opener.
- The series starting rotation of Cooper Omans, Williams, and Acker combined for 22 strikeouts in 16.2 innings, while allowing just 10 hits, for an opponent batting average of .172.
- For the series, the Sharks hit .414 with runners in scoring position and .425 with two outs, while the pitching staff held the Tars to .167 and .226, respectively.
The Sharks will see their first non-conference action of the season, when they make the quick trip north to Boca Raton to face the Lynn Fighting Knights, scheduled for an early noon first pitch.