First-year Head Coach Lindsay Fico knew that the Saints would be challenged this weekend with games against three of the top seven Florida College System Activity Association teams. But even after coming up empty in the win column, Fico believes it was a positive experience that they can build on.
"This weekend's games taught us we can compete at the highest level," said Fico. "We learned a lot about each other in just a few games and our future is very bright."
Friday night the Saints went up against defending State Champion Florida Southwestern State College, presently ranked #2 in FCSAA and #3 in the nation. The Saints held a 1-0 lead going into the third inning, but a two-out error led to five unearned runs for the Buccaneers who went on the register a 12-2 win. "We started the game with a lot of energy and came out ready to play," said Fico. "Scoring a run in the first inning set the tone. We have to learn how to maintain that energy for an entire game."
Fastpitch News Preseason All-American Kelsi Collins settled in to quiet the Saints bats while the Buccaneers' bats heated up. "I was very pleased with how the team competed against a very strong FSW squad. Our only problem was we struggled with making all the routine plays. You can't give a team like FSW extra outs and expect to win."
Saturday morning the Saints took on Pensacola State College, ranked 7th in the FCSAA poll. SF sophomore Tihana Zupanic dueled PSC sophomore Shayne O'Connell pitch for pitch until surrendering a two-run home to Ashely Valencia for the only scoring in the 2-0 PSC win. "Tihana Zupanic did a phenomenal job in the circle. She pitched a great game and we played very clean defense behind her. One swing of their bat changed the outcome. "
The Saints' hitters were not able to figure out O'Connell and managed just one hit in the game.
"O'Connell kept us off balance in the box. She mixed up speeds very well and we weren't aggressive enough early in the count to have a chance. I'm glad our batters had the chance to face a pitcher like that because we now know what we need to focus on to be better next time."
Things didn't get any easier Saturday night as the Saints went up against Indian River State College, presently ranked #5 FCSAA and #8 in the nation.
The Saints were unable to hold an early 2-0 lead, but three-run fourth brought them back to within a run at 7-6. Siarra Navarro doubled and Kaitlynn Bennett and Adrianna Garip had singles to spark the rally.
The Saints would tie the score at 7-7 in the sixth when Bennett singled, stole second and eventually scored on an error. IRSC scored the eventual winning run in the bottom of the sixth on a bases loaded walk and the Saints would leave the potential tying run on third in the seventh as they fell 8-7.
"We finally hit the ball very well in this game. Kait Bennett continued to lead the offensive charge in the leadoff position and Adriana Garip reached base every at bat," said Fico. Fico said that freshmen pitcher/outfielder Dontaysha Gobourne was one of many bright spots over the weekend.
"Donnie Gobourne proved she can wear multiple hats for us this season," said Fico. "She was a leader offensively, made plays in the outfield and also managed a great game in the circle. She will only get better with experience."
The Saints scheduled doubleheader on Sunday against the University of Puerto Rico was rained out and will not be rescheduled. Next up for the Saints (0-3) is a trip to Tampa on Thursday when they will face Hillsborough CC in a doubleheader beginning at 4 pm.
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