LA Tech sweeps WKU in Saturday softball action

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MONROE, La. – Three hours before the first pitch of Saturday’s Conference USA doubleheader against WKU, the five Louisiana Tech seniors stood on the remains of the Lady Techster Softball Complex.

This wasn’t how Senior Weekend was supposed to look. But Mother Nature had different ideas with an F3 tornado that demolished many parts of Ruston and the LA Tech campus less than 60 hours earlier.

With a shredded softball scoreboard as the background and hundreds of members of the student body and community scattered around the complex as well as other areas of the city helping with clean up, the Techster senior class snapped picture after picture.

“We went to the field to take the pictures, and I was shocked,” said Crowder. “There were hundreds of people working together to clean up what was left of it. It was amazing to see that so many people care. As a senior it was so awesome to get those final photos on our field one last time.”

Powerful pictures.

Photos that showed toughness … love … passion … unity … and the same never-say-die mentality that has allowed this year’s Lady Techster team record seven league wins in its final at bat.

Berkley Calapp. Jazlyn Crowder. Krystal De La Cruz. Preslee Gallaway. Morgan Turkoly. Five young ladies that represented Louisiana Tech and Ruston for the past four years while leading the program to 140 wins.

Wait, make that 142 now.

After the photo shoot, the Tech players jumped in 15-passenger vans and drove 30 miles east to Monroe to play a No. 1 vs. No. 2 in C-USA series at the ULM Softball Complex.

The Hilltoppers entered Saturday riding a six-game winning streak and sitting in first place in the league standings. But what WKU met was a LA Tech team riding emotions that were as strong as the 150-plus mile per hour winds that tore through a tiny, tight-knit community just days before.

“We were on adrenaline to an extent,” said Tech head coach Mark Montgomery. “The emotional outpouring of them and what they wanted to show, I have never experienced that before. We have had teams that really wanted to win games and prove something. But this team wasn’t worrying about proving something. They wanted to be something. They wanted to be something for their school and their community. It was so exciting to see.”

Tech (38-13, 16-4) scored two runs in the bottom of the first inning of game one. Crowder’s RBI triple down the right field line plated the first run and allowed the pent up energy and emotion in 18 young ladies explode. As Crowder slid into third base, she turned to her teammates in the dugout and pumped her fits in the air.

“It was really emotional,” said Turkoly. “It was the most energy that I have felt in my four years at Tech. It was raw emotion. Everyone in the dugout was playing for the girl next to her. It didn’t matter what the individual was doing as long as it was for the good of the team. It was special.”

They responded in kind.

It was just the start of another memorable, emotional day. Tech road those emotions to an 8-0 win in game one behind Gallaway’s 1-hit shutout and Crowder’s three-hit, three-RBI performance. It marked just the second time this year that WKU has been shut out in a game.

De La Cruz provided the next solid performance in the circle in game two while Turkoly hit a home run and tied the C-USA single season runs record as the Lady Techsters won 4-1.The lone run by the Hilltoppers came on a wild pitch and the Techsters had to overcome more emotions when junior Marilyn Rizzato went down with an injury in the second inning.

But the LA Tech dug out led by Calapp, who has been sidelined for weeks with an injury, was just as impactful. Calapp’s voice could be heard throughout both games encouraging her teammates on. Every pitch. Every play.

Tech now sits in a two-way tie for first place with North Texas entering Sunday’s series finale with WKU. First pitch is set for 12 p.m. at ULM and admission is free.


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