The rival Hardin-Simmons Cowgirls spoiled Howard Payne’s home finale, and all but ended the Lady Jackets’ hopes of reaching the American Southwest Conference softball tournament.

With Saturday’s 8-3 loss, Howard Payne (10-24, 6-20) is now four losses behind the three teams tied for sixth place — LeTourneau (12-19, 7-16), UT-Dallas (11-18, 7-16) and Concordia (7-24, 7-16), all of whom have six ASC games remaining. HPU has just three left at No. 3 East Texas Baptist (25-2, 21-2) Monday and Tuesday. The Lady Jackets would need to sweep ETBU — which has won 11 straight games — and get help to reach the postseason.

After falling 4-3 in eight innings and 7-4 Friday in the first two games against Hardin-Simmons (20-13, 17-10), the Lady Jackets grabbed the lead in the opening inning of Saturday’s series finale.

Gaby Muniz led off with an infield single against Hardin-Simmons hurler Tori Rodriguez, who gave up two hits and struck out two before giving way to relievers Genia Jones, Lara Ammerman and Kelsey Reichmanis. Amanda Cruddas followed with a one-out infield single, then Muniz stole third base. An RBI ground out by Shandi Winstead plated the first run.

The Cowgirls quickly answered, putting four runs on the board in the second inning and two more in the third to seize control, 6-1.

During the four-run second, Alexis Vines singled home Lauren Williams and Ashley Brown, while Katelyn Joyner added an RBI single and Sarah Truelove chipped in an RBI double before the frame ended.

Hardin-Simmons’ third inning featured a leadoff homer to left field by Keagan Jimenez, then Vines delivered a two-out RBI single to right field to plate Braleigh Middleton, who walked.

The Cowgirls tacked on two more runs in the seventh to stretch their lead to 8-1. For the second time, HSU began the inning with a solo home run — this time off the bat of Truelove. Later in the inning, Williams singled home Jimenez, who reached on an error.

Howard Payne added two runs in the bottom of the seventh, but the Lady Jacket rally fell way short.

Cherita George started the inning with a walk and Adrienne Sanchez contributed a one-out single to right field. With two down, Kennedy Coffin drilled a two-RBI double to left-center, plating both Sanchez and George. Muniz followed with an infield single and Erin McLeod drew a walk to load the bases, but the game ended on a strikeout with three Lady Jackets stranded.

Howard Payne generated five hits — two by Muniz and one each from Cruddas, Sanchez and Coffin.

In the circle for HPU, Celese Tirres worked the first three innings and yielded six runs — three earned — on six hits with one walk. Tayler Rushing pitched the final four innings and gave up two runs — one earned — on five hits with three strikeouts.

Vines led HSU with two hits and three RBIs, while Truelove finished with a pair of hits and drove in two. Former Brownwood Lady Lion Sydnie Darden recorded one of the Cowgirls’ 11 hits.