The University of South Carolina Beaufort softball team backed up its preseason status as the favorite to unseat Webber International atop the Sun Conference, sweeping the Warriors 13-3 and 6-5 on Saturday at Richard Gray Sports Complex in Hardeeville.
The wins moved the 17th-ranked Sand Sharks (27-3, 5-1 Sun) into the top spot in the conference standings, one game ahead of the Warriors and St. Thomas.
USCB broke open the first game with a nine-run fourth inning. Junior second baseman Katie Rietkovich began and ended the game with home runs for the Sand Sharks, blasting a shot to center to leadoff the first and cranking a three-run shot to left in the fifth to end the game early on the mercy rule.
Mariaha Sanborn and C.J. Browder each had two hits and an RBI, and Maddie Byrd and Taylor Triplett each had a hit and drove in two runs for the Sand Sharks in the opener.
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Sophomore Kristy Cook (13-0) picked up another win, holding the Warriors to three runs -- two earned -- on five hits with six strikeouts.
The Sand Sharks appeared headed for another easy win in the nightcap, as Rietkovich hit another leadoff home run and Browder also homered to help stake starter Ashlie Layman to a 6-0 lead after four innings.
But the Warriors (15-15, 5-3) scored two in the fifth and three in the sixth to get within one.
USCB turned to Cook to try to stop the rally, and she struck out Ashley Peterson to end the sixth and strand runners at the corners, then left the tying run at second in the seventh to pick up her first career save.
Layman (6-0) earned the win, allowing two runs on eight hits over five innings. Browder was 4 for 4 with two RBIs, Byrd was 2 for 4 with two RBIs and Missy Hughes was 3 for 3 and scored a run.
The Sand Sharks' weekend continues with a home doubleheader against Embry-Riddle at 1 p.m. Sunday.
USCB also will observe Youth Day, with perks including free ice cream courtesy of Jack Frost for children wearing apparel representing their rec team or favorite pro or college team. One adult also will receive free admission when accompanied by one or more child in sports apparel.