HPU rallies for 9-6 win in opener, cruises to 10-2 victory in nightcap

ALPINE — By means of a comeback and a blowout, the Howard Payne Lady Jackets captured the first two games of their American Southwest Conference softball series against the Sul Ross Lady Lobos Friday afternoon.

The Lady Jackets rallied from three runs down in the opener for a 9-6 victory over the Lady Lobos, then chalked up five runs in their first trip to the plate during the nightcap en route to a 10-2, six-inning triumph.

In Game 1, the Lady Jackets (9-10, 6-8) erupted for five runs in the top of the seventh inning, thanks to a pair of home runs, to rally past Sul Ross (4-11, 4-10).

Trailing 5-4 when the seventh began, pinch-hitter Chelsea Cyphers drew a walk and Gaby Muniz and Rachel Hitt followed with infield singles to load the bases. After a fielder's choice resulted in the first out at the plate, Celina Ortiz launched a grand slam over the left-center field wall off relief pitcher Alex Biddle to push HPU in front, 8-5.

Then, with two outs, Yasmine Ayala drilled a solo shot to the left-center gap to increase the lead to 9-5.

All Sul Ross could manage in the bottom of the inning was a two-out RBI single by Destanie Hernandez that scored Nicole Stoltz, as HPU's Celese Tirres picked up the complete-game victory in the circle.

Howard Payne finished with a dozen hits, led by two apiece from Muniz, Tayler Rushing and Adrienne Sanchez. Hitt, Ortiz, Ayala, Sabrina Ochoa, Allison Eaton and Brittany Ponder contributed one hit apiece. Ortiz led the way with four RBIs followed by Sanchez with two and Ochoa, Ayala and Muniz added one apiece.

Sul Ross generated 13 hits off Tirres, who struck out five and walked one. Zuriah Leyva finished with four hits, including a homer, and three RBIs. Stoltz and Shelby Doederlein added two hits each and Hernandez and Christina Graham each contributed an RBI.

The Lady Lobos never trailed until the seventh inning, grabbing a 1-0 advantage in the bottom of the first when Leyva doubled home Doederlein, who reached on error.

HPU pulled even at 1 in the top of the second as Sanchez singled home Eaton, who walked and later stole second.

Sul Ross regained a 2-1 edge in the bottom of the second as Hernandez struck out, but a dropped third strike forced a throw to first base and Stolz, on third base, beat the throw back to the plate.

Again, the Lady Jackets knotted the score in the top of third as Ochoa singled home Muniz, who led off with single.

Sul Ross surged in front, 5-2, in the bottom of the third as Graham homered to left field and

Leyva homered to right-center following a Doederlein single.

HPU closed the gap to 5-4 in the top of the fourth as Sanchez singled home Ayala, who led off with a walk. Later, Muniz's RBI ground out plated Rushing, who singled right after Ayala.

In Game 2, the Lady Jackets raced out to a 5-0 lead in the top of the first inning and never looked back.

Ortiz reached on an error to plate Hitt, who reached on infield single, with the first run. Eaton then doubled home Ortiz. Rushing followed with a three-run blast that brought home Eaton and Ayala, who walked, to cap the first-inning scoring.

The Lady Jackets stretched the lead to 6-0 in the third as Rushing doubled home Ortiz, who led off the inning with a single.

Sul Ross accounted for its two runs in the bottom of the third as Anaya Losoya's two-RBI single scored Graham, who singled, and Leyva, who doubled.

HPU tacked on three runs in the third as Ochoa reached on a fielder's choice and Hitt walked, both of whom scored ahead of a solo homer by Ortiz.

The Lady Jackets tallied their final run of the day in the top of the sixth as Eaton singled home Muniz, who also reached base on a single.

Howard Payne again generated 12 hits off Lopez and Garcia, led by three from Eaton and two each from Rushing, Ayala and Ortiz. Hitt, Muniz and Kodi Glosson added one hit each. Rushing's four RBIs led the way while Ortiz and Eaton contributed two each.

In the circle, Rushing pitched all six innings and surrendered two runs on eight hits with three strikeouts and one walk.

Already guaranteed a series victory, the Lady Jackets will battle Sul Ross in the weekend finale at 11 a.m. Saturday.