PENSACOLA- The College of Central Florida softball team has already had a history-filled season.
The Patriots (41-12) made more history on Saturday when they had their first-ever 2-0 start in the FCSAA Atlantic District Softball Tournament. The last opening round win for CF was in 2009 when it knocked off Indian River State, which was ranked No. 1 in the nation at the time.
CF, though, has never advanced through the opening two rounds unscathed prior to Saturday and will now have a chance to advance to the district championship game.
All that stands in the way is rival Santa Fe, who CF will face this afternoon at 3 p.m. EST.
If the Patriots can knock off the Saints, it would be the first time in school history they registered multiple wins in a single season over their rival. Earlier this season, CF snapped a 12-game losing streak to SFC behind the pitching of Jamie Nelson, who went five innings and allowed just one run on three hits.
Nelson (15-2) needed just 65 pitches over seven innings in a 7-2 win over Seminole State on Saturday in the winner's bracket quarterfinals. She and teammates Taylor Bowen (19-6) and Autumn Hanners (eight saves) also received excellent defense, as CF didn't commit an error in 31 chances over the two games.
Over the first two games, CF has received strong hitting throughout its lineup. Lindsay O'Steen (5-for-8, two runs scored, double), Hanners (2-for-4, two runs scored, three RBI, home run), Amy Szymanowski (2-for-4, four runs scored, three RBI, home run), Jessica Nathan (4-for-7, four runs scored, five RBI, two home runs) and Cheyenne Blaha (2-for-7, two runs scored, double, reached base 4-of-8 trips to the plate) have been the leaders so far in the tournament.
With her performance in the second game, O'Steen improved to 7-for-16 with five runs scored this season in five games against Seminole. Szymanowski, meanwhile, hit her fourth home run of the year against the Raiders and moved into sole possession of the all-time state and conference record for career homers at 35. The sophomore catcher is now 9-for-21 lifetime with four homers and nine RBI in the state tournament. Even more impressive for the Florida State signee is the fact she's reached base in 18 of her last 20 plate appearances in the state tournament over the past two seasons.
Up next for CF is Santa Fe, the team which eliminated it from last year's state tournament in the district finals. The winner of Sunday's game between the Patriots and Saints moves into the Atlantic District title game on Monday. If CF wins over SFC, it would need only one win over whoever it would face on Monday, while its foe would have to win twice in order to reach the state title game against the Gulf District winner.
A loss by the Patriots and they would have to turn around and play whoever survives the loser's bracket over the early portion of the day on Sunday.
They'll get a SFC team that earned wins of 1-0 and 8-3 over Lake Sumter and Daytona State respectively. The Saints have played 20 one-run games this season, splitting those contests. SFC started off 1-7 in one-run games, but have gone 9-3 since.
Both CF (15-9) and SFC (18-3) have winning records against teams that qualified for the Atlantic District event. The Patriots will deal with a SFC lineup that is paced by leadoff hitter Sid Masso. The sophomore is 7-for-13 with four runs scored and five RBI against CF this season. Masso went 2-for-4 with one runs scored and a double in her team's 2-0 win over the Patriots in Ocala, which followed a 4-1 loss in the opening game of the doubleheader. For her career, Masso is 8-for-28 with seven runs scored and six RBI against CF.
Veteran teammates Rachel Hoeft (8-for-31, eight runs scored, four RBI) and Celeste Bradshaw (9-for-24, three runs scored, five RBI) have also performed well in their careers in games against the Patriots. Hoeft (3-for-14, four runs scored, RBI), Bradshaw (3-for-11, RBI) and Megan McDonald (3-for-11, RBI this season and 5-for-21, three runs scored, RBI) were a combined 4-for-18 against CF in Ocala, but Masso was 3-for-6 with two doubles, one run scored and reached base in five-of-seven plate appearances to take the pressure off.
SFC's pitching has been the key to its ninth conference title in 10 seasons.
Amber Maxey (11-6) and Maddie Peres (17-8) are the top pitchers for the Saints. Maxey has enjoyed a tremendous career against CF. In six career appearances, she is 5-0 with a 1.44 ERA, which included a 2-0 mark this season in three outings with a 2.15 ERA. In the state tournament lifetime, Maxey is 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA in four outings.
She was the winning pitcher in relief with 3 1/3 innings of work against Daytona on Saturday. Peres, the Pitcher of the Year in the MFC, is 0-1 in two starts against CF with a 7.00 ERA.
For CF in the circle, Nelson is 1-2 with a 2.80 ERA lifetime against the Saints, while Bowen is 0-2 with a 6.30 ERA. In state tournament outings, Nelson is 2-1 with a 3.50 ERA over four games, while Bowen is 1-1 with a 1.94 ERA in three outings. Bowen had a 23 1/3 inning scoreless streak at home against MFC opponents, before the Saints scored off of her back in April.
At the plate, Jordan Lane leads CF against SFC with a 6-for-13 effort in four games. Szymanowski (4-for-14, three runs scored, home run), Hanners (3-for-12, two runs scored, four RBI) and Taylor Morrow (4-for-13, run scored, RBI) have backed Lane at the plate against the Saints. For her career against SFC, Szymanowski is 6-for-29 with six runs scored, three homers and four RBI.
When the College of Central Florida softball team meets up with Santa Fe, it will enter the contest on an eight-game winning streak.
CF will try to make history when it faces the Saints this afternoon at 3.
All year long, the Patriots have received tremendous efforts from numerous sources and over the first two games of the FCSAA Atlantic District Tournament, this has remained the same.
Jessica Nathan had career highs with five RBI and two home runs in the win over Eastern Florida State. The Florida A&M signee also tied her career-high with three runs scored in the win over the Titans. Nathan's previous career best for runs scored in a game was against Seminole State in last year's district tournament. For her career, Nathan is 7-for-29 with nine runs scored, three homers and seven RBI in the postseason.
Caylee Underwood scored two runs in the win over Seminole and tied her career-high for most runs scored in a game. Underwood has now scored two runs in four games this season. She's also went 2-for-5 with one run scored over her last two games against Santa Fe.
Meanwhile, Jordan Lane had two RBI in the win over Seminole, thanks to her two-run single in the fifth, which gave the Patriots the lead for good. Lane now has 11 multiple RBI games on the year.
Another freshman, Lindsay O'Steen, upped her total to 14 multi-hit games with her two outings that totaled a team-best five hits over the first two games of the tournament.
In the circle, Jamie Nelson won her seventh straight start to improve to 15-2 on the year. During her seven-game winning streak, Nelson has a 1.03 ERA and has allowed just four earned runs on 21 hits in 27 innings.
Nelson has been very effective throughout the season and has come up even bigger of late. She hasn't issued a walk in her last 16 innings of work, going back three outings. In Saturday's win over Seminole, she threw first pitch strike to 18-of-26 batters she faced. The Raiders were officially 2-for-15 against Nelson when she threw first pitch strikes.
Taylor Bowen upped her career win total to 37 with her victory over Eastern Florida State in the opening round. Bowen is 10-3 against conference opponents with a 1.61 ERA and has won eight of her last decisions against MFC opponents.
Autumn Hanners has been strong out of the bullpen, as she has seven consecutive scoreless appearances and hasn't given up a run in her last 12 innings of work.