By Matt Green
ROME – The Shorter softball team earned a non-league split with former and future conference rival Lee University on Wednesday afternoon at Alto Park, falling in the opener, 11-4, before taking the nightcap, 7-3.
With the split, Shorter improves to 19-3 overall while the Game 2 loss is the first for the Flames (18-1) this season. Shorter and Lee, former rivals in the Southern States Athletic Conference, will renew their conference rivalry next season when the Flames join the NCAA Division II ranks as a member of the Gulf South Conference.
Castaneda hit a three-run bomb to put Shorter up 3-0 in the first and Johnson followed in the very next at-bat with a solo shot that made it 4-0 in favor of the Lady Hawks. The homer was Castaneda's first of the season and Johnson's sixth, which tied her for the team lead.
Johnson added an RBI single in the second inning to push Shorter's lead to 5-0, and after Lee trimmed Shorter's lead to four with a run in the top of the fifth, the Lady Hawks answered in the bottom half with an RBI double by Kendall Johnson that made it 6-1.
Shorter's final run of the game came on Felicia Morris' RBI groundout in the sixth and Lee loaded the bases and pushed a pair of runs across in the seventh, but Christina Ezell entered the game in relief of starter Maddie Bray and recorded the final two outs to end Lee's comeback hopes.
Bray got the win in the circle tossing 6.1 innings and striking out six while allowing just three runs on five hits. Ezell picked up the save.
In Game 1, Lee's Ana Coscorosa went 3-for-5 with a homer and five RBI as the Flames used a fast start and strong finish to down Shorter 11-4.
Lee scored twice in the first and three times in the second to go up 5-0. The three second inning tallies came on Coscorosa's three-run homer with two outs, a rally that began with a two-out, bases empty error by the Lady Hawks.
Castaneda walked in a run for Shorter in the bottom of the second and Bre Johnson hit a solo shot to lead off the fifth and bring the Lady Hawks within 5-2, but the Flames answered in the top of the sixth with four more runs aided by Shorter miscues. An infield error with one out and the bases loaded allowed the first run of the frame to cross before Lee's Charlie Wooden stroked a two-run double and Meg Marcias followed with a run scoring single to extend the Flames' lead to 9-2.
Morris hit a two-run homer for Shorter in its half of the sixth, but that was all for the Lady Hawks, as Lee added two more in the seventh to post the 11-4 final score.
Morris, Bre Johnson and Cooper recorded two hits apiece for Shorter in the opener. Starter Kayla Byrom lasted just 1.2 innings and surrendered five runs, four earned, on six hits. Ezell entered in relief and tossed the final 5.1 innings, but gave up five earned on seven hits.
Shorter returns to GSC action this weekend with a pair of road doubleheaders with West Florida and Valdosta State on Saturday and Sunday, March 16 and 17.