In just its second season of competition, the University of South Carolina Beaufort softball team can hang an impressive banner on the fences -- Sun Conference champion.
The 10th-ranked Sand Sharks clinched the regular-season conference crown with a doubleheader sweep of Warner on Friday, winning 9-1 and 2-1 at Richard Gray Sports Complex in Hardeeville.
The wins extended the Sand Sharks' winning streak to a program-record 14 games.
Sophomore Sam Boland came off the bench to deliver the game-ending hits in both contests, smacking a single up the middle in the fifth to invoke the eight-run mercy rule in the opener and looping a single into right to plate the winning run in the seventh in the nightcap.
USCB (37-3 overall, 13-1 Sun) received terrific pitching performances in both games, as sophomore Kristy Cook tossed a three-hitter in the opener and freshman Ashlie Layman twirled a four-hitter in the finale. Both remained unbeaten, as Cook improved to 17-0 and Layman moved to 10-0.
The first game was tied at 1 until the Sand Sharks broke it open with a four-run third inning. Junior C.J. Browder started the big inning with an RBI single, and sophomore Maddie Byrd added a two-run double and later scored on a wild pitch. USCB tacked on two more in the fourth, and senior Caitlin Vaughn's RBI single in the fifth set the stage for Boland's game-ending hit.
Pitching took center stage in the nightcap, as Warner's Lindsey Martin (7-4) matched Layman for most of the game. USCB broke through in the fourth on sophomore Mariaha Sanborn's RBI double to right-center, and it remained 1-0 until Heather Knoop knocked an RBI single up the middle to tie it in the top of the seventh.
Martin was unable to record an out in the bottom of the inning, though, as pinch hitter Alexandria Simmons reached on an infield single to start the inning and freshman Missy Hughes beat out a bunt. After a walk to Katie Rietkovich, Boland provided the clinching hit with a blooper to right.
The Sand Sharks will try to add to their winning streak when they close the regular season at home Saturday with a doubleheader against Southeastern starting at 1 p.m.