LAKE WALES, Fla. -- The University of South Carolina Beaufort softball team picked up one of the four wins it needs this weekend to clinch the top seed in the Sun Conference Tournament, as the 14th-ranked Sand Sharks rebounded from an extra-inning loss to salvage a split at Warner on Friday.
Warner's Dee Malone hit a game-ending home run in the eighth inning to lift the Royals to a 3-2 win in the opener, but USCB came back to win 6-1 in the finale.
USCB's Kristy Cook (12-5) and Warner's Chelsie Valentine were locked in a pitchers' duel in the first game, as neither allowed a run through five innings. The Royals broke through in the sixth when Malone tripled and scored on Jessica Adams' ground-rule double.
The Sand Sharks (33-7, 9-3 Sun) answered with two runs in the seventh, when Mariaha Sanborn was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and Marissa Becker hit an RBI grounder.
USCB couldn't hold the lead, though, as Tiffany Porter led off the bottom of the inning with a triple and scored on Hayley Padgett's RBI single. Malone then homered with one out in the eighth.
USCB came back strong in the second game, getting three hits, two runs and two RBIs from leadoff hitter Sammi Shaffren and a complete-game five-hitter from Ashlie Layman (15-0) to earn the split.
Shaffren scored on Alexandria Simmons' RBI groundout in the first, but Malone's RBI triple tied it in the third. Chelsey Blasingame delivered an RBI single in the fourth to put the Sand Sharks back on top, and USCB added another run in the fifth when Shelby Zipperer tripled home Shaffren.
USCB put up three insurance runs in the sixth on one of Warner's five errors and Shaffren's two-run triple.
Layman struck out three and allowed just one run on five hits and one walk to improve to 26-0 in her career.
The Sand Sharks' road trip continues with a doubleheader at Ave Maria at 1 p.m. Saturday and a twinbill at Thomas at 1 p.m. Sunday.
USCB must win all four to win the Sun Conference title outright for the second straight year. If the Sand Sharks win three of four, they would tie with Embry-Riddle for the best record in the conference and claim the top seed in the tournament by virtue of the head-to-head tiebreaker.