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Courtesy: Charlotte Sports Information
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Niners Go to Extras, Rally, but Fall to No. 22 FAU Saturday

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Charlotte softball (27-20, 7-10 C-USA) dropped  a pair of heartbreakers to No. 22 Florida Atlantic (40-7, 15-2 C-USA) in a Saturday doubleheader at Phillips Softball Complex. The Niners fell 3-1 in eight innings in Game 1 and 7-5 in Game 2, despite having the lead through four innings and a two-out rally in the seventh.

Freshman Emma Ocker and sophomore Bailey Rhoney led the offense in Game 2, each registering three hits and picking up one each in Game 1. Ocker also scored twice in Game 2, while Rhoney scored once. Sophomore Haley Pace added two hits and two RBI, also in the nightcap.

The finale of the series will be played at noon on Sunday, April 24.

The opening game was the classic definition of a pitcher’s duel, as senior Lexi Betancourt threw toe-to-toe with the Owls’ Kylee Hanson, ranked second in the nation in ERA. The two hurlers had limited the offense to a combined five hits until the fourth inning.

That was when the Owls took advantage of a leadoff walk and steal, moved the runner up via a sacrifice bunt, and a sneak attack on a bunt single to the pitcher broke the stalemate.

Charlotte tied it up in the bottom of the fifth, after catcher Taylar Byrne slapped the ball back to the first baseman, who bobbled it and allowed Byrne to reach on error. Freshman Alex Paulson then came on to pinch-run, moving to second on a sacrifice bunt and third on a fly ball to center field.

With two outs and Paulson in scoring position on third, Ocker dropped a perfectly placed ball into shallow left field, allowing Paulson to plate the tying run.

FAU reclaimed the lead in the eighth, after two solo homeruns insured the victory.

Charlotte threatened, leaving two runners on in each the third and sixth innings, but were unable to come across.

The Niners started the nightcap hot, as Ocker and Rhoney collected back-to-back singles to lead off Game 2. They each advanced 60 feet on a passed ball, and then Ocker came home on  a sacrifice fly from Pace.

They then added to their lead the following frame, when Byrne and classmate Erin Powers boarded on one-out back-to-back walks. Paulson then came in to run once again, as she and Powers moved into scoring position at third and second on a groundout from Kiersten Berrier. Ocker then punched a ball towards first base, bringing Paulson. Rhoney followed up with a single through the right side gap to bring home Powers and give Charlotte a 3-0 lead.

The Owls threatened early and often, leaving the bases loaded in the first and two on in the second before scoring twice in the fourth to trim the lead. An error the following inning allowed the tying run to cross the plate, and it looked as though the two teams would head into their second straight extra-innings contest.

Instead, FAU’s Emily Lochten blasted a grand slam in the sixth to give the Owls the go-ahead 7-3 lead.

A rally in the seventh was cut short, when Ocker and Rhoney again led off with back-to-back hits. Pace followed up with a single up the middle to bring Ocker home once again, and sophomore Grace Beatty connected on a ball to drop into center field to score Rhoney.