For all the talk about the new faces that would make up the 2016 edition of the USCB softball team, it was a familiar one that claimed the spotlight in Saturday’s season opener.
Senior Ashlie Layman threw the fourth perfect game in program history – and the first since the inaugural 2012 season – in a 14-0 victory in the opener, and the Sand Sharks finished a doubleheader sweep of visiting Montreat with a 14-6 win in the finale.
Layman was dominant from the start, striking out the side in the first and finishing with nine strikeouts in the five-inning game that was abbreviated by the eight-run mercy rule. She didn’t allow a ball out of the infield and only came close to allowing a baserunner once – when second baseman Marissa Becker had to go up the middle and make a strong throw to barely get Dezaree Avallone to end the fourth.
The Sand Sharks provided Layman plenty of support, smacking six doubles among their 13 hits and sending 15 batters to the plate in the 10-run second inning. Haley Brown went 2-for-3 with two runs and two RBIs, Taylor Boyett was 2-for-2 with a pair of doubles and an RBI and scored twice, Becker was 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run, and Whitley Martin was 1-for-2 with two RBIs to lead the way at the plate.
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The Cavaliers got off the canvas and grabbed an early lead with two runs in the first inning of the second game, and they later wiped out a four-run deficit to tie it at 6 on Kendra Johnson’s two-run double in the fourth.
USCB answered in the bottom of the frame, as Emily Pauley singled to score Brown with the go-ahead run, and Pauley delivered another RBI single to set off a seven-run rally with two outs in the sixth inning and again invoke the eight-run rule.
The Sand Sharks racked up 18 hits in the finale, including three from freshman center fielder Kayla Boyle, who had an RBI and scored twice. Brown was 2-for-2 with two RBIs and two runs, Becker was 2-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs, Pauley was 2-for-2 with two RBIs and a run, and Emma Erwin was 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Missy Hughes, Bailey Craven, and Martin each added two hits, and Boyett knocked in the final two runs with a single in the sixth.
Senior Cara Jamerson gave up two runs (one earned) in one inning to pick up the win in her first appearance since 2012, and Kendall Jumper struck out four over two scoreless frames to earn the save.
The Sand Sharks are scheduled to host Middle Georgia State for a doubleheader at 1 p.m. Sunday, weather permitting. Follow @USCBAthletics on Twitter for stay posted on any schedule changes.