HPU falls 6-3 and 8-6 Friday, 2-1 Saturday

In their next-to-last home stand of the season, the Howard Payne Lady Jackets were much more competitive, but still unable to end a lengthy losing streak.

The Lady Jackets suffered their ninth American Southwest Conference series loss in as many weekend outings, were swept by their fourth consecutive ASC opponent and witnessed their string of defeats reach 14 following losses of 6-3 and 8-6 Friday and 2-1 Saturday to the Belhaven Lady Blazers.

The last victory for Howard Payne (5-27, 3-21) was on March 10, a 4-3, nine-inning home triumph over Sul Ross in the opener of a three-game set.

Saturday’s series finale was scoreless until the top of the sixth inning when Belhaven (13-19) — which is not eligible to compete in the ASC tournament this year as it is still reclassifying from the NAIA ranks — struck for an unearned run.

Makayla Reed walked against HPU’s Madison Witherwax to leadoff the sixth and stole second base, then advanced to third when Cassidy Blount extended the frame with a two-out single through the right side. Meg Garton then reached on a two-out error at first base, allowing Reed to score the first run.

HPU answered in the bottom of the sixth as Kyra Chapa was hit by a pitch. Pinch-runner Kodi Glosson moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Sabrina Ochoa, while Tayler Rushing followed with an RBI triple to right-center field. Rachel Hitt followed with a bunt single, but the Lady Jackets were unable to get the go-ahead run home despite having runners on second and third base with one out.

Belhaven responded in the top of the seventh as Kaitlyn Blubaugh singled to right field with one out, then Reed followed with a two-out single to left. Savannah Lyon then came through with an RBI single up the middle that plated Blubaugh with the decisive run.

The Lady Jackets went quietly in the bottom of the seventh, retired in order with a pair of strikeouts.

HPU mustered just two hits off Belhaven’s Taylor Surrento — Rushing’s triple and Hitt’s bunt single, both in the sixth inning.

Witherwax went the distance in the circle for the Lady Jackets, yielding one earned run on seven hits with one strikeout and two walks.

In the 6-3 series-opening loss, the Lady Jackets scored all three runs of their runs in the bottom of the first inning. Belhaven, however, seized a 4-3 edge in the top of the second and added two insurance runs in the fifth.

HPU’s first inning featured an Audrey Simpson walk and steal followed by an RBI single from Hitt. Rushing then tripled Hitt home to put the Lady Jackets in front, 2-1. Rushing later scored on an RBI sacrifice bunt by Tiffany Hinkleman.

The Lady Jackets finished with seven hits — two each by Rushing and Hitt and one apiece from Simpson, Haley Slater and Gabrielle Roque.

In the circle, Simpson took the loss allowing four runs — three earned — on seven hits with one strikeout in two innings. Witherwax pitched the final five innings and surrendered a pair of runs on five hits with four strikeouts and three walks.

In Friday’s 8-6 defeat, the Lady Jackets fell behind 5-0 after two innings and were unable to complete a comeback. Howard Payne crept to within 5-3 after six innings, but the Lady Blazers answered with three runs in the top of the seventh. The Lady Jackets scored three times in their last at-bat, but it wasn’t enough.

Howard Payne generated 10 hits — three by Boucher, who homered and drove in three; two each by Slater and Simpson, who recorded an RBI each; and one apiece by Hitt and Ochoa.

Rushing pitched five innings and took the loss, allowing five runs on six hits with two strikeouts and four walks.

The Lady Jackets venture Concordia for three games Thursday and Friday, then wrap up the season at home April 21-22 as LeTourneau visits for the final three contests.