Underdogs SLU and Northwestern State rally, claim two wins on opening day of Southland Softball Tournament

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TOURNAMENT CENTRAL

NATCHITOCHES, La. – Day one of the 2019 Southland Conference Tournament is in the books as No. 5 seed Southeastern Louisiana and No. 6 seed Northwestern State advance to the third round of play with two wins each, following a pair of opening-round victories at Lady Demon Diamond in Natchitoches, La. SLU will now face No. 1 Sam Houston State Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. CT, while Northwestern State and No. 2 Nicholls will meet for an 11:30 a.m. showdown. Following opening-round losses, No. 4 Stephen F. Austin and No. 3 McNeese fall into the elimination bracket.

Game One | No. 5 Southeastern Louisiana – 7 vs. No. 8 Central Arkansas – 6 (Box Score)

Seven innings were not enough to decide a winner in the opening game between No. 5 Southeastern Louisiana and No. 8 Central Arkansas. SLU ultimately outlasted the Bears and advanced to the second round with a 7-6 victory.

Jaquelyn Ramon sparked the Lady Lion offense from the very beginning, hitting a single before stealing second base. After advancing to third, Ramon was driven home on a sacrifice fly from Mima Doucet that placed SLU ahead 1-0.

The two squads played to a stalemate over the next three innings until Central Arkansas’ Tyla Vernon gave the Bears their first run after a single from Reagan Sperling. Rebecca Skains then concluded a four-run explosion for Southeastern Louisiana with a two-run home run shot over center field that put the Lady Lions up 5-2.

Central Arkansas found a rhythm on offense and fought its way back, tying the score at 5-5 with three runs in the top of the sixth inning. SLU regained its footing in the bottom of the sixth with a run from Lindsey Rizzo but the lead was short lived as UCA’s Oakley Sisemore scored on a single to center field from Sperling later in the inning.

The Lady Lions finally retired the Bears in the seventh inning but were subsequently sat down in order, forcing an eighth inning of play. Central Arkansas placed a runner on second but was unable to capitalize on the play.

With the count at 2-2, Southeastern Louisiana’s Madisen Blackford found her way on base with a single up the middle. On the very next play, Blackford advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt from Bobbi Smith. With one runner on, Ramon stepped up to the plate looking to provide the late-game heroics for the Lady Lions. Set for the bunt, Ramon connected and dashed down the first-base line, beating the throw and allowing Blackford to score the game-winning run.

Game Two | No. 6 Northwestern State – 4 vs. No. 7 Lamar – 0 (Box Score)

No. 6 Northwestern State advanced to the second round, escaping single-elimination play with a 4-0 win over No. 7 Lamar. After opening the game with two scoreless innings, the Lady Demons vaulted to a 3-0 lead after Cayla Jones sent a shot over the right center field fence. Facing a full count with runners on first and second, Jones connected on the seventh pitch for the three-RBI homer.

The teams held each other scoreless over the fourth and fifth innings but Northwestern State provided one final run for assurance in the bottom of the sixth after a single from Kaitlyn St. Clair was driven to the Lamar shortstop. Kayla Roquemore crossed the plate for NSU’s final run after entering the game to pinch run for Alexis Perry.

In a last-ditch effort with two outs, Lamar entered Taylor Davis to pinch hit for Kimberly Mattox but were unable to capitalize. Northwestern State’s E.C. Delafield earned her 10th win of the season and moved to a 10-3 record after allowing just two hits in the game.

With the win, Northwestern State advanced to the second round to face No. 3 McNeese in game three of the tournament. The Lady Demons escaped the single-elimination portion of play and will compete in double-elimination matches for the remainder of their tournament.

Game Three | No. 4 Stephen F. Austin – vs. No. 5 Southeastern Louisiana – (Box Score)

A pitcher’s duel was on display in game three between No. 4 Stephen F. Austin and No. 5 Southeastern Louisiana. SFA’s Kassidy Wilbur and right-handed SLU pitcher Karlee Kraft battled in the circle for eight innings before Madison Watson crushed a two-run homer over center field to push the Lady Lions to a 2-0 win.

Wilbur struck out eight Southeastern Louisiana batters on the way to a 1.56 ERA in the game for the Ladyjacks. Margarita Corona led the SFA offense with a pair of hits, including a double down the right-field line in the first inning.

Kraft was aided by an impeccable defense that forced the Ladyjacks into 16 flyouts and 10 groundouts in the game. The Lady Lions finished the contest with seven hits and three stolen bases in the victory as Kraft improved to a 5-1 record.

Stephen F. Austin will play again Wednesday afternoon at 2 p.m. CT against loser of game six between Nicholls and Northwestern State.

Southeastern Louisiana will now face top-seeded Sam Houston State in game five, beginning Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. The winner will advance to the semifinal contest.

Game Four | No. 3 McNeese – 3 vs. No. 6 Northwestern State – 4 – (Box Score)

No. 6 Northwestern State stunned No. 3 McNeese 4-3 in a seven-inning affair Tuesday evening to conclude day one of the Southland Tournament. The Lady Demons and the Cowgirls combined for 15 hits in the contest. Heading into the day, McNeese had not lost in a Southland Tournament game since a 2015 loss to Southeastern Louisiana.

McNeese jumped out to an early 2-1 lead, scoring a run in each of the first two innings. NSU leveled the score at 2-2 in the third inning after Elise Vincent cracked a triple down the left field line. Vincent was brought home on the very next play as Cayla Jones sent an RBI single toward the McNeese shortstop.

The Cowgirls took the lead once again in the bottom of the fifth after Kaylee Lopez doubled to left field, allowing Justyce McClain to cross home plate. Northwestern State responded in the very next inning by loading the bases with three of their first four batters. With the bases loaded, Riley Cantrell knocked a single into the right field gap for NSU to bring the game even at 3-3. Maggie Black then stepped up to the plate and sent a single of her own into right field to bring Kaitlyn St. Clair in and put the Lady Demons up for the final time of the night at 4-3.

Northwestern State sealed the victory over the Cowgirls with three-straight outs in the bottom of the seventh. The Lady Demons remain unbeaten in tournament play and will now take on No. 2 Nicholls Wednesday morning at 11:30 a.m.

The loss drops McNeese into game seven where it will take on the loser between Sam Houston State and Southeastern Louisiana.

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