In the opener of a three-game American Southwest Conference softball series against the rival Hardin-Simmons Cowgirls, the Howard Payne Lady Jackets collected a 4-3 walk-off victory on their home turf Thursday afternoon.
Trailing 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh and final inning, Howard Payne (12-15, 8-11) received a leadoff single through the right side from Alexis Sullivan. Then, facing Hardin-Simmons (15-14, 10-6) pitcher Taylor Hinojos with one out, Kayla Hill launched the game-winning, two-run home run over the center field wall.
Hardin-Simmons had snapped a 2-all tie in the top of the seventh when Kate Tovar led off the inning with a solo home run.
The Lady Jackets jumped out to a 2-0 lead with single runs in the second and fourth innings. Ragen Noriega reached on a one-out bunt single in the second and scored on Kayla Anderson’s RBI double to right-center field. In the fourth, Madison Love’s two-out RBI single up the middle brought home Amy Perez, running for Hill who drew a walk to start the frame.
Hardin-Simmons drew even at 2 in the top of the sixth inning as Hinojos belted a two-run homer after Sidney Cox reached on a one-out single.
Howard Payne finished with eight hits — two each from Sullivan and Anderson and one apiece by Hill, Noriega, Slater and Love.
In the circle, Tia Campos pitched four shutout innings, allowing five hits; Audrey Simpson gave up three runs on five hits with one strikeout over 2.1 innings; and Hannah Stuart picked up the win in 2/3 of an inning of relief.
Originally scheduled for Friday and Saturday, the start of the series was moved up a day due to the threat of rain this weekend. The series will conclude with a 1 p.m. twinbill Friday.