The Howard Payne Lady Jackets opened the 2017 softball season with a pair of home victories over the Austin College Lady Roos Tuesday, but in significantly different fashions.
First, the Lady Jackets survived a pitchers’ duel and collected a 2-0 victory, then the Howard Payne bats went to work during a 12-7 triumph in a slugfest.
Seeking their first postseason appearance since 2013, the Lady Jackets — who posted a 16-22 overall mark a year ago, with an 8-14 American Southwest Conference record — received a complete-game, six-hit shutout from Audrey Simpson.
Simpson — a sophomore transfer from Cuero High School and Murray State College — also recorded three strikeouts and did not issue a walk, while the Howard Payne defense committed just one error behind her.
Offensively, the Lady Jackets generated eight hits off Austin College pitcher Tori Herrera, who also went the distance and tallied nine strikeouts with no walks.
Designated hitter Tiffany Hinkleman was the lone Lady Jacket with multiple hits while shortstop Rachel Hitt, center fielder Tayler Rushing, first baseman Haley Slater, third baseman Kayla Boucher, second baseman Kodi Glosson and left fielder Tonya Thompson added one each.
The Lady Jackets scored both their runs in the bottom of the second inning. Glosson led off the frame with a double to left field, then later scored when Thompson reached on a throwing error. With one out, Hinkleman singled down the left field line to plate Thompson as an insurance run.
In the 12-7 nightcap, the Lady Jackets used an eight-run bottom of the third inning to climb out a 4-3 hole and seize control of the contest.
Howard Payne collected 10 hits and drew five walks off the Austin College pitching combination of Kat Wright, Courtney Gonzales and Herrera.
Simpson, playing in the outfield, ignited the HPU offense with a three-hit, six-RBI performance that featured a grand slam as she was a double shy of hitting for the cycle. Catcher Gabrielle Roque chipped in two hits and a pair of RBIs, Rushing drove in two with one hit and Glosson finished with a pair of hits. Hitt and Slater added hits as well, while Thompson and Boucher also drove in runs.
Trailing by a run heading to the bottom of the third, Boucher reached on a one-out error, one of two miscues in the field for Austin College. Glossen was then hit by a pitch and Slater walked to load the bases. Gonzales relieved Wright and was greeted by a grand slam from Simpson to left center field, which pushed Howard Payne back in front, 7-4.
Roque then singled, Hinkleman walked and Hitt reached on a bunt single to load the bases again. Thompson then picked up an RBI on a bases-loaded walk ahead of a two-RBI double to right-center field by Rushing, which increased the cushion to 10-4. Boucher followed with an RBI ground out that plated Thompson and capped the scoring.
HPU also struck for three runs in the second inning and one more in the sixth.
In the second, Simpson tripled home Glosson, who singled, and Slater, who reached on a fielder’s choice. Roque later bunted home Simpson.
In the sixth, Glosson singled with one out, Simpson followed with a two-out base hit and Roque singled in Hannah Pflueger, running for Glosson.
Thompson picked up the win in the circle for the Lady Jackets, working 3.1 innings of relief and allowing two earned runs on four hits with one strikeout and a pair of walks. Madison Witherwax got the start and lasted 2.2 innings, surrendering five runs — three earned — on four hits with three strikeouts and three walks.
Howard Payne (2-0) will visit Schreiner at 1 p.m. Friday for another non-conference doubleheader.