WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The USC Beaufort softball team ran its winning streak to eight games by opening a key weekend of Sun Conference road games with a doubleheader sweep of Northwood on Saturday, winning 6-0 and 7-1.
Junior shortstop C.J. Browder homered in both games and sophomore third baseman Mariaha Sanborn hit a pair of home runs in the second game in support of outstanding performances from USCB's pitchers.
Sophomore Kristy Cook (14-0) was dominant in the opener, tossing a two-hit shutout while striking out six. She didn't allow a baserunner until Hailey Cusimano reached on an error to start the fifth, and she didn't give up a hit until Erica Yunka's leadoff single in the seventh.
Sanborn put the Sand Sharks (31-3, 9-1 TSC) on the board in the second with an RBI single, and Amanda Brown's sacrifice fly later in the inning made it 2-0. A Northwood error allowed two runs to come home in the seventh, and Browder followed later in the frame with a two-run blast to center.
The second game played out similarly, but the Sand Sharks jumped on top even earlier. Browder blasted a two-run homer to center in the first -- her team-leading 14th of the season -- and Sanborn's solo shot and Alexandria Simmons' RBI double in the second made it 4-0.
The Seahawks (9-27, 0-8) finally got on the board on Lauren Ashe's RBI double in the bottom of the second, but Sanborn added a two-run homer in the third and Taylor Triplett drove in a run with a single in the sixth.
That was more than enough support for starter Ashlie Layman (8-0), who allowed one run on two hits over five innings while striking out five. Sophomore Caitlin Campbell allowed two hits in two scoreless innings of relief to finish it off.
The 14th-ranked Sand Sharks maintained their spot atop the Sun Conference standings heading into today's 1 p.m. doubleheader at St. Thomas (15-11, 4-2 TSC).
AVE MARIA SWEEPS BASEBALL
HARDEEVILLE -- The USC Beaufort baseball team had its five-game winning streak snapped and dropped its Sun Conference series to Ave Maria, falling 4-1 and 7-2 to the Gyrenes at Richard Gray Sports Complex.
The Sand Sharks (21-20, 11-13 TSC) won the series opener 10-6 on Friday but couldn't keep up the hot hitting in Saturday's opener and were hurt by five errors in the finale.
USCB slipped back into a tie with Thomas for sixth place in the league standings -- and the final spot in the Sun Conference Tournament. The Sand Sharks have three conference games remaining, at home next weekend against ninth-place Warner, while the Night Hawks have three games apiece with league-leading Embry-Riddle and second-place St. Thomas, as well as a makeup game against eighth-place Northwood. USCB also holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over Thomas.
The Sand Sharks had a chance to gain on fifth-place Southeastern, but they couldn't solve Ave Maria ace Joe Bocchino in the opener. Bocchino (9-1) limited USCB to one run on five hits in a complete game, outdueling USCB junior Hunter Englehart (3-4), who gave up just two runs -- one earned -- on three hits in six innings.
Both runs against Englehart came in the first, and USCB cut the margin in half on Blake Cilwick's sacrifice fly in the sixth. The Gyrenes added insurance runs in the eighth and ninth, and Bocchino shut down USCB's potential rally in the eighth by picking off Cilwick at first.
The Sand Sharks struck first in the finale, taking a 1-0 lead on Ryan Walker's RBI single in the first, but they didn't score again until the eighth.
Only three of Ave Maria's seven runs were earned, as USCB aided the Gyrenes with five errors. Sophomore Junior Delatorre (4-2) took the loss, allowing four runs -- two earned -- on six hits over six innings.
Cilwick and Ryan Doeppel each had three hits for USCB.
The Sand Sharks travel to face Voorhees College in a non-conference doubleheader on Monday, then return home to wrap up the regular season with a three-game conference series against Warner on Friday and Saturday.