SHSU, Nicholls set for rematch in Southland Softball Tournament title game

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Bearkats hit walkoff home run; Colonels notch 10 runs for championship game berth

NATCHITOCHES, La. – After three days of play at the 2019 Southland Tournament, the championship match is set with No. 1 Sam Houston State taking on No. 2 Nicholls Friday, May 10 at 12 p.m. CT. The Bearkats clinched a shot at the title with a 2-0 win over Nicholls in Game Nine. Brooke Malia sealed the victory for SHSU with a two-run walkoff home run in the ninth inning. The Colonels rebounded from the loss with a dominant 10-4 win over McNeese to conclude day three action. Nicholls had previously been eliminated from the 2017 and 2018 Southland Tournaments by the Cowgirls.

Game Eight | No. 4 Stephen F. Austin – 6 vs. No. 6 Northwestern State – 1 (Box Score)

After a 22-hour rain delay, No. 4 Stephen F. Austin and No. 6 Northwestern State returned to the diamond to settle their game from Day Two for the right to advance to Game 10 of the 2019 Southland Conference Tournament. The Ladyjacks employed an impressive three-run fifth inning to eliminate the Lady Demons by a final score of 6-1.

The first 2.5 innings were tabled Tuesday night but not before NSU’s Kaitlyn St. Clair blasted a shot over the left-field fence to put the Lady Demons up 1-0. Inclement weather conditions ensued, forcing SFA and Northwestern State to postpone play until 2:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon. Leading off the day for Stephen F. Austin was 2019 Southland Hitter of the Year who was immediately walked. Mackenzie Bennett then stepped up to the plate next and delivered a home run out of left field to put the Ladyjacks up 2-1.

Bennett provided another spark for the SFA offense in the bottom of the fifth with a RBI double to plate Bryana Novegil. The Ladyjacks would score once more in the inning on a single up the middle from Lauren Becker to bring Corona and Bailey Richards across the dish. Northwestern State’s defense retired SFA on the next play with the Ladyjacks up 5-1.

Emily Wolfe struck once more for SFA in the sixth after Corona singled to center field for her first hit of the afternoon. Northwestern State catcher Alexis Perry caught Novegil stealing third on the next play, ending the inning with SFA up 6-1.

The Lady Demons attempted to drum up their offense in the seventh inning after Cayla Jones cranked a single to second base. Stephen F. Austin ended the game on the next play, however, after NSU’s Emma Hawthorne popped out to Maggie Black at shortstop.

The 6-1 victory pushed the Ladyjacks into an elimination bout against No. 3 McNeese in Game 10 of the tournament.

Game Nine | No. 1 Sam Houston State – 2 vs. No. 2 Nicholls – 0 (Box Score)

Yet another pitcher’s duel ensued in Game Nine between top-seeded Sam Houston State and No. 2 Nicholls. Nine innings and 243 pitches were needed to decide a winner between the Bearkats and the Colonels where Sam Houston State’s Brooke Malia launched a two-run walkoff home run to end the contest. SHSU ace Lindsey McLeod struck out eight batters in the affair, sending the Bearkats into the championship game with an unblemished 2-0 tournament record.

Defense remained stingy for both squads as each team posted four hits through the eighth inning. Megan Landry delivered her three strikeouts within the first seven innings, while her teammates assisted her by securing 16 flyouts throughout the game. Sam Houston State countered by forcing the Colonels into 17 popouts during the contest.

With runners on the corners and Mallery Marino threatening from third base, the Colonels entered Gretchen Morgan into the game to pinch hit for Corynn Major in the seventh inning. Morgan faced six pitches before flying out to left field, taking the game into the bottom half of the inning. Landry stepped into the circle, fanning one of two batters while sitting the Bearkats down in order.

Three of the game’s nine hits were registered in the eighth inning as Nicholls started things off with a hit from Samantha Mracich. Mracich advanced to second for the Colonels before Sam Houston’s McLeod rung up her seventh strikeout of the game. In the bottom of the eighth, the Bearkats put two runners on base with a pair of singles but were unable to convert, ultimately leaving two runners stranded to end the inning.

In the bottom of the ninth, SHSU’s Tiffany Thompson provided a leadoff hit, reaching first base on a Nicholls fielding error before stealing second base on the next play. Second baseman Brooke Malia stepped up to the plate looking for her first hit of the afternoon. Facing a 2-2 count, Malia took her fifth pitch and sent it over left field, ending the game in spectacular fashion.

The 2-0 win solidifies a spot in the Southland Tournament title game for the Bearkats and improves the squad to a 33-21 overall record.

Game Ten | No. 3 McNeese – 3 vs. No. 4 Stephen F. Austin – 0 (Box Score)

In what would turn into the fourth extra-inning game of the tournament, No. 3 McNeese and No. 4 Stephen F. Austin battled through 11 innings until a winner was decided. The Cowgirls provided three runs in the top of the 11th, highlighted by a two-run homer from Toni Perrin. Stephen F. Austin and McNeese combined for 15 hits throughout the contest.

The Cowgirls employed three pitchers, beginning with Saleen Flores who went 8.2 innings before Caroline Settle tagged in to replace her. Alexsandra Flores closed out the contest for McNeese with two strikeouts in the final two innings. The trio allowed six hits on 156 pitches and 46 batters faced.

Ashley Kriesel started things off in the circle for Stephen F. Austin with four innings of work before freshman Kassidy Wilbur closed out the game for the final seven innings. Wilbur faced 25 of McNeese’s 41 batters, tossing 133 pitches and fanning four Cowgirls. In her four innings, Kriesel rung up seven McNeese players on 16 batters faced.

The Ladyjacks were led on offense by Bryana Novegil who accounted for three of SFA’s six hits. Alex Hedspeth delivered the only extra-base hit of the game for Stephen F. Austin with a double up the middle in the fourth inning.

Mcneese logged five of their nine hits over the last four innings. In the top of the 11th, Cori McCrary charged the Cowgirls’ offense with a leadoff single down the right field line before stealing second base. On the next play, facing a 2-2 count, Perrin cracked a two-run home run that placed McNeese ahead 2-0. Justyce McClain provided the assurance for the Cowgirls with a sacrifice flyout to left field that brought Megan Holmes in for the third and final run of the game.

The 3-0 victory vaulted McNeese into the backdraw semifinal contest against No. 2 Nicholls.

Game 11 | No. 2 Nicholls – 10 vs. No. 3 McNeese – 4 (Box Score)

No. 2-seeded Nicholls and No. 3 McNeese flipped the script on the rest of the Day Three Southland Tournament games with an action packed 14-run contest that ultimately fell in favor of the Colonels. The two squads combined for 23 hits as Nicholls scored six runs in their final two innings to top the Cowgirls 10-4.

McNeese jumped ahead early with a trio of runs in the second inning after a home run from Alexandria Saldivar brought in Toni Perrin who doubled to left center field just two plays earlier. Following the home run, Alexis LaBure entered the circle for the Colonels with one out on the board. After relieving Emily Danehower, LaBure retired the next two McNeese batters. Kasey Frederick responded for Nicholls with a solo home run that placed the Colonels on the board and reduced McNeese’s lead to 3-1.

The Cowgirls added a run in the top of the third, but Nicholls responded once again, this time with a three-run explosion that tied the score at 4-4. Nicholls ace Megan Landry made her appearance at the top of the fourth with the decision up in the air. The two teams retired each other in order, moving the game into the fifth inning with the stalemate still intact.

In the bottom of the fifth, the Colonels reached base on each of their first four plays but were unable to score as Kelsey Miller was thrown out on a fielder’s choice at second base. With the bases loaded and the score still tied at 4-4, Caitlin Garcia stepped up to the plate for her third appearance of the contest. Garcia was still on the lookout for her first hit of the game and built her count to 0-1 before launching a shot out of right-center field for a grand slam and her ninth RBI of the tournament.

The Colonels, now ahead 8-4, carried their momentum through the remainder of the game, scoring two more runs in the sixth inning and securing a 10-4 win over the Cowgirls. Prior to Thursday, Nicholls had been eliminated from each of the last two Southland Tournaments by McNeese. With the victory, the Colonels will now face No. 1 Sam Houston State in the championship match of the Southland Tournament.

First pitch of the Southland title game is slated for 12 p.m. at Lady Demon Diamond in Natchitoches, La. Should the Colonels defeat the Bearkats, the two teams will play one last time as Sam Houston State has not yet lost a game in the double-elimination tournament.

Coverage for the championship match is scheduled to be televised nationally on ESPNU, in addition to streaming availability on ESPN.com/watch and ESPN apps. Four-time Louisiana sportscaster of the year Lyn Rollins and two-time NFCA All-American Tori Vidales will call the action for the title stage.

If Game 13 becomes necessary, coverage will shift to ESPN3, online-only through ESPN.com/watch and ESPN apps.

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