KENNESAW, Ga. – Jacksonville softball scored first but ultimately fell, 7-1, in game one, and a late rally in game two was not enough to lift the Dolphins over Kennesaw State in game two, 6-3, Friday afternoon at Bailey Park.
"It's tough to win on the road. You have to credit [Kennesaw State] for hitting the ball hard and making things happen on offense," said Head Coach Jennifer Steele. "With that being said, we gave them too many opportunities with either balls we made errors on, or balls that we were out of defensive alignment on. We didn't do a great job of barreling balls up on offense. When you don't execute on defense, you don't have your best stuff in the circle, and you don't square a lot of balls up on offense, it's very difficult to win against quality competition."
The Dolphins (22-19, 2-6 ASUN Conference) got the ball rolling right off the bat in the top of the first when Jordan Daniels doubled a ball on a 2-2 count deep into center field with two outs. When a pop out to second for the third out was overturned due to an Owl illegal pitch, Daniels was awarded third base and Madison Ragan was allowed to continue her at bat. On the next pitch, Ragan floated the ball into shallow left center and Daniels scooted home for a 1-0 Dolphin advantage.
Kennesaw (31-12, 7-4 ASUN) countered back in the bottom of the inning when Noelle Winkles hit a two-run double into left center with two outs to give the Owls a 2-1 lead. Kennesaw tacked on a run in the bottom of the second when a blooper into shallow left field allowed an Owl to score from second.
Kira Czyrklis led off the bottom of the fourth with a home run over the left center wall to make it 4-1 Kennesaw. With Kennesaw base runners on second and third, Danielle Baker fielded a ground ball and, instead of getting the batter out at first, took advantage of the eager Owl headed for home and threw her out at the plate to avoid further damage in the inning. Ciara Jones used her speed in left field to end the inning by catching a fly ball just inside fair territory to leave Owls stranded.
Kennesaw added a second home run from Jessie Bennett in the bottom of the sixth to give the hosts a 5-1 lead. A triple to right field, followed by a single to no-man's-land in shallow right center drove in two more runs for the Owls' final 7-1 advantage.
Taylor Thorpe struck out three and suffered the loss in the circle for the Dolphins to fall to 8-6 this season.
The Owls managed three runs in the first inning – one each from a passed ball, a failed pick off, and a sacrifice fly out in foul territory – before the Dolphins could get out of trouble. Kennesaw added a fourth run on an RBI ground out.
The Dolphins persevered in the top of the fifth as Makenzie Buss led off with a laser through the left side. With one out, Kristen Griffith took advantage of an Owl error by the first baseman to get two Dolphins on and a single into left center from Kamille Larrabee loaded the bases. Baker rocketed the ball into left field to bring in one run, and Allie McCourt grounded out to bring in a second Dolphin run to cut the deficit in half, 4-2.
Jacksonville came its closest in the top of the sixth, when a sacrifice fly from Bethany Kursch brought in Daniels to make the game 4-3 with two outs, but the Dolphins weren't able to get any subsequent runs across and left one stranded.
KSU tacked on two insurance runs in the top of the seventh with a homer from Lauren Bennett and an RBI single from Olivia Tamewitz to seal the Owls' 6-3 victory.
Seana Mora took the loss in the circle to fall to 3-3 overall.
Daniels and Buss led the Dolphins, both going 2-for-5 at the plate. Daniels had a double with two runs scored, while Buss added a run scored. Ragan, McCourt, Kursch, and Baker all drove in runs for Jacksonville.
"Luckily, we get another shot tomorrow and if we can do two parts of the game, we can come out on top," added Steele.
The Dolphins return to action tomorrow to close out the series with the Owls at 1:00 p.m.