Entering the weekend with their American Southwest Conference tournament hopes very much alive, the Howard Payne Lady Jackets’ postseason aspirations were dealt a significant blow by the rival Hardin-Simmons Cowgirls Friday afternoon.
Starting the day just one game out of sixth place, the Lady Jackets dropped a doubleheader, 4-3 in eight innings and 7-4, to the Cowgirls. Now with only four ASC games left, Howard Payne (10-23, 6-19) is two full games behind the three teams tied for sixth place — LeTourneau (12-19, 7-16), UT-Dallas (11-18, 7-9) and Concordia (7-24, 7-16) — none of which played Friday.
Howard Payne will conclude it series with fifth-place Hardin-Simmons (19-13, 16-10) at noon today at Lady Jacket Field, then venture to No. 3 East Texas Baptist (25-2, 21-2) for three games Monday and Tuesday.
In Friday’s first game, the Lady Jackets tallied the first run of the game, and the final two of regulation — including the tying run with two outs in the bottom of the seventh — to force extra innings.
Knotted at 3 after seven innings, Hardin-Simmons began the eighth with a single up the middle by Kaegan Jimenez, then Alexis Vines moved her to second base with a ground out. Braleigh Middleton then reached on an error — the fourth of the game for Howard Payne — which allowed Jimenez to score the winning run from second base.
Celese Tirres took the loss in relief for HPU, surrendering two runs — one earned — on two hits with one walk in two innings. Tayler Rushing got the start and yielded only two runs — one earned — on five hits with three strikeouts over five innings.
At the plate, the Lady Jackets generated five hits off HSU pitcher Tori Rodriguez, who struck out five and walked two. Rushing, Erin McLeod, Allison Eaton, Gaby Muniz and Cherita George collected the hits.
Down 3-1 heading to the bottom of the sixth inning, Howard Payne scored runs in each of the last two frames to prolong the contest.
In the sixth, McLeod was hit by a pitch and moved to second base on an Amanda Cruddas sacrifice. With two outs, George singled up the middle to bring home McLeod.
The seventh inning saw Kodi Glosson get hit on the elbow by a pitch with one out. With two down, Muniz doubled to deep left field to score the tying run.
HPU grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first as Eaton singled to lead off, stole second, and scored on an RBI single to center field by McLeod.
The Cowgirls drew even in the fourth as Middleton reached on an error and scored on an RBI double to left field by Lauren Williams.
Hardin-Simmons grabbed a 3-1 lead in the top of the sixth as a Carley Willis sacrifice fly to the wall in center field scored both Middleton, who reached on a bunt single, and Jimenez, who singled to left.
In the nightcap, Hardin-Simmons tallied the first four runs before the Lady Jackets drew even with a four-spot in the bottom of the fifth. The Cowgirls then broke the tie in the sixth and added two insurance runs in the seventh.
The Howard Payne fifth featured a leadoff single by Adrienne Sanchez followed by a bunt single from Kennedy Coffin and a single through the right side by Muniz to fill the sacks with no outs. McLeod followed with a bases-loaded walk to drive in the first run, while Coffin later scored on a wild pitch. An RBI ground out by Shandi Winstead plated Muniz with the third run, while McLeod scored on an errant pickoff attempt at third base.
The Cowgirls reclaimed the lead in the sixth as Middleton led off with a double and scored on an RBI single by Williams. In the HSU seventh, Jimenez singled with one out and scored on Kara LeLeux’s two-run homer to left field.
Hardin-Simmons struck for two runs in the third on an RBI double by Jimenez, which plated Truelove, who singled, and an RBI single by Middleton that brought home Jimenez.
The Cowgirls extended their lead to 4-0 in the fifth as Sarah Truelove tripled home Katelyn Joyner, who singled, then former Brownwood Lady Lion Sydnie Darden reached on an RBI fielder’s choice that scored Truelove.
Howard Payne finished with seven hits against HSU pitcher Lara Ammerman, who struck out seven and walked four. Rushing led the Lady Jackets with two hits while Muniz, McLeod, Glosson, Sanchez and Coffin added one each.
Tirres and Rushing combined to surrender 12 hits for Howard Payne with two walks and a pair of strikeouts.