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PENSACOLA- In earning its first round win in the FCSAA Atlantic District Tournament, the College of Central Florida softball team made plays in all phases of the game.
Jessica Nathan hit two homers and Autumn Hanners slugged another and the CF defense was strong, as the Patriots earned a 10-1 six-inning victory over Eastern Florida State in the opening round of the FCSAA Atlantic District Tournament on Saturday afternoon at Exchange Park in Pensacola.
Nathan's second homer, a grand slam, finished off the Titans and enabled her to go 3-for-4 with three runs scored and five RBI.
Hanners went the final 1 1/3 innings for her eighth save of the year and got a key out to close out the Titans in the top of the fifth after they had closed to within 2-1. The freshman from Winter Park Lake Howell High drilled a three-run homer in the bottom half of the fifth to help CF win its first opening round game since 2009.
The Patriots, who finished the season at 3-0 against the Titans, also got the second career state tournament homer from Nathan, who scored five runs in the event during her team's run to the district final.
CF's big inning came after the Titans closed to within 2-1 on an RBI single by Dajia Jones, who finished the year 5-for-10 against the Patriots. With two on and two outs, Hanners relieved starter Taylor Bowen and induced an inning-ending grounder from Bri Seaman to help the Patriots get out of the jam.
In the bottom of the fifth, Lindsay O'Steen lead off with a double and the Titans walked Amy Szymanowski, who has now reached base in 15 of her last 16 plate appearances in the state tournament dating back to last season. In her career at state, she has reached base in 19-of 28 plate appearances.
Hanners made the Titans pay with her ninth homer, one more than EFS has as a team for the season.
O'Steen (2-for-4, run scored), Szymanowski (1-for-1, two runs scored, three walks, reached base in all four plate appearances), Hanners (2-for-2, two runs scored, three RBI), Cheyenne Blaha (double, run scored) backed Nathan, who now has seven homers on the season.
Bowen (19-6), a Florida Southern signee, earned the win after allowing one run on eight hits in 4 2/3 innings. She walked one and struck out two in downing the Titans for the second time this season.
Bowen threw 67 pitches during stint in the circle, 50 for strikes.
EFS was just 1-for-8 against her with runners in scoring position and failed to get a hit in 10 of its 11 at-bats in the game with runners on second base or further. The Titans also left nine runners on base and had four innings where they stranded at least two.
CF, which didn't commit an error, made the plays it needed and shook off a slow start at the plate. The Patriots, who were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position and left four runners on base over the first three innings, took advantage of a key miscue by the Titans to go ahead 1-0 in the second.
Nathan led off the second with a single against EFS starter Brooke Formby (9-14). With two outs, Formby appeared as if she would get out of the jam, but the Titans dropped a deep fly ball to right off the bat of Blaha and CF led 1-0.
CF's defense kept EFS from a big inning in the top of the fourth.
After the Titans started off the frame with a pair of singles, CF got a great hustle play from the duo of Jordan Lane and Lizzy Burchfield. Eastern's Bri Seaman smashed a ball off Burchfield at third, but the Patriots didn't give up on the play, as Lane ran down the ball near the going into the outfield behind third and flipped back to Burchfield for the force out.
From there, the Titans loaded the bases with an infield single, but Bowen got Hannah Denny to ground into a forceout at the plate and then retired Harlee Gadley on a pop-up to end the threat.
The momentum swung even more for CF when Nathan led off the bottom of the fourth with a home run that curled just inside the left field foul pole for a 2-0 lead.
With the win, CF (40-12) advances in the winner's bracket and will take Seminole State later today at 6 p.m EST.
The Raiders (32-27) knocked off the nation's No. 1 team Indian River State 1-0 to open the tournament.
CF went 4-0 this season against Seminole State, also a member of the Mid-Florida Conference.
The Patriots also eliminated the Raiders 6-5 last season in the district tournament.
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