AVE MARIA, Fla. -- The University of South Carolina Beaufort softball team picked up two huge victories Saturday, as the 14th-ranked Sand Sharks won 9-2 and 9-0 to sweep a doubleheader at Ave Maria.
Shelby Zipperer hit a grand slam and had five RBIs, and Kristy Cook turned in a strong pitching performance in the opener. Sammi Shaffren, Maddie Byrd and Chelsey Blasingame each had two RBIs to back up Ashlie Layman's one-hit shutout in the finale.
The Sand Sharks (35-7, 11-3 Sun) can claim a share of the Sun Conference regular-season title and the No. 1 seed in the upcoming conference tournament by winning one of two at Thomas (Ga.) on Sunday. USCB would win its second straight outright title with a sweep of the Nighthawks.
Taylor Triplett broke a scoreless tie in the third inning of the first game by smacking an RBI single to right, and two more runs came home in the fourth on an Ave Maria error with Zipperer at the plate. Zipperer added a grand slam in the sixth and Amanda Brown tacked on a two-run single in the seventh.
Cook (13-5) limited the Gyrenes to two runs on four hits and struck out six in a complete game.
Layman (16-0) was dominant in the nightcap, striking out seven and allowing just one single and a pair of walks. The hit and one of the walks came in the first inning, and she retired 12 straight before allowing another baserunner on a walk with one out in the fifth, then setting down the last eight batters of the game.
The Sand Sharks gave Layman all the offense she needed in a three-run first inning, as Triplett doubled home a run and Maddie Byrd and Blasingame each added RBI singles. Byrd, Blasingame, Shaffren and Zipperer each knocked in runs in the four-run fifth, and USCB added two more in the ninth on an error and a Shaffren RBI groundout.
USCB wraps up the regular season with a doubleheader at 1 p.m. Sunday at Thomas. The Nighthawks (22-21, 8-6 Sun) also are wrapping up a stretch of six games in three days; they split doubleheaders with Ave Maria on Friday and Warner on Saturday.