BY SAM GRUBENHOFF
NICEVILLE — Two comebacks in one night proved too much to ask of the Raiders.
After trailing 3-0 early against Gulf State on Wednesday in Niceville, the NWF State softball team rallied for a 6-4 victory in Game 1 of its midweek doubleheader against the Commodores, but that same effort came up short in Game 2, the Raiders falling 13-5 in five innings.
Freshman shortstop Sydney Byrd, a Niceville High School alumna, starred in Game 1, racking up a team-high five RBIs.
She brought home two runs in the bottom of the first with a single to cut the Commodore's lead to 3-2 and later mashed a two-run home run — her fourth long ball of the season — in the bottom of the third to give NWF State (20-22 overall, 4-8 Panhandle Conference) a 4-3 advantage.
Byrd finished Game 1 with a 3-for-4 line, the Raider offense racking up 11 total hits.
Gulf Coast State (31-11, 8-4) added a fourth run in the sixth inning with Belle Wolfenden solo shot to make things interesting, but freshman pitcher Brookelyn Sweeney clamped down to finish out the seven-inning affair and snap a four-game losing streak. After relieving freshman starter Lauren Rase in the second inning, Sweeney tossed the remaining 5 1/3 innings, allowing just two hits and two walks with a pair of strikeouts.
The Raiders' pitching prowess bottomed out in Game 2, and their defense didn't fare well either, committing eight errors. Of the Commodores' 13 runs, only four were earned.
Freshman Makiya Giles pitched three nonconsecutive innings, allowing eight hits and two walks against two strikeouts, and Sweeney was tagged for three hits in her 1 1/3 innings. Rase pitched 2/3 of an inning and also allowed a hit.
Ranked second in the Panhandle Conference behind Chipola, which boasts a perfect 8-0 mark in conference play and a 33-3 record for the year, Gulf Coast again plated three runs in the first, then two more in each of the second, third and fifth innings with a four-spot sprinkled in during the fourth frame to keep things interesting.
The Raider offense, meanwhile, mustered seven hits, including two solo home runs by Thalia Silva and Ashley Autuori, Silva's coming inside the park.
NWF State returns to action with its third doubleheader of the week at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Friday on the road against Tallahassee.