Lady Jackets win opener, finale over Ozarks to capture first ASC softball series of season

DERRICK STUCKLY BROWNWOOD BULLETIN derrick.stuckly@brownwoodbulletin.com
Lady Jacket Amanda Gober slides safely into third base prior to scoring Howard Payne’s second run in Saturday’s 8-3 ASC victory over Ozarks.

The Howard Payne Lady Jackets snapped an 18-game skid over the weekend and earned their first American Southwest Conference softball series victory of the season, taking two of three games from the Ozarks Lady Eagles Friday and Saturday.

The Lady Jackets picked up a 7-6 walkoff victory in Friday’s first game, took a lead into the seventh inning of Friday’s 7-3 loss in the second game and dominated Saturday’s finale by an 8-3 count.

Howard Payne (4-21, 3-18) generated 18 runs in the three-game series after producing a total of 24 runs over its previous 18 outings.

In the final game Saturday, Howard Payne scored in five of its six trips to plate and broke a 2-all tie with three runs in the bottom of the third inning.

HPU racked up 11 hits against the Ozarks (3-25, 2-19) pitching combination of Tabitha McClane and Haley McKee, led by four from Erin McLeod, two each by Jessica Morales and winning pitcher Tayler Rushing and one apiece by Larisa Salazar, Amanda Gober and Kelly Kaake.

Trailing 2-0 after half an inning, McLeod singled home Morales, who led off with a base hit up the middle, with two outs in the bottom of the first. In the bottom of the second, Adrienne Sanchez singled with two outs, and an error on the play allowed Gober, who reached on a one-out bunt single, to score at knot the game at 2.

The Lady Jackets surged in front in the third inning as Salazar led off with a single and Pricilla Patino reached on error. With two on and no outs, McLeod tripled off the wall in right field to push HPU in front, 4-2. Cherita George followed with an RBI sacrifice fly that extended the lead to 5-2.

Howard Payne increased its advantage to 7-2 in the fifth inning as McLeod led off with another single and Kodi Glosson, running for McLeod, scored on an RBI single up the middle by Rushing. With two outs in the inning, Morales reached on an error that allowed Beth Mullins, who drew a walk, to tally the seventh run.

The final run for the Lady Jackets crossed the plate in the bottom of the sixth as McLeod singled with one out and came home on an RBI triple to right-center field by Rushing.

Rushing also tossed a seven-hitter, allowing two earned runs with three strikeouts and a pair of walks.

In Friday’s 7-6 victory, the Lady Jackets trailed 6-2 heading to the bottom of the sixth inning after surrendering five runs in the top of half of the inning.

HPU closed the gap to 6-4 in the bottom of the sixth as Gober singled to right field with one out, Shandi Winstead followed with a single to center and Sanchez singled down the left field line to load bases. With two outs, Mullins ripped a two-RBI single up the middle that plated Gober and Tiffani San Miguel, running for Winstead.

Still down by a pair of runs in the bottom of the seventh, McLeod was hit by a pitch to start the inning then George doubled to left-center field. With runners on second and third and no outs, Rushing reached on an RBI fielder’s choice that scored Glosson, who was running for McLeod. George later came home on a passed ball which knotted the game at 6-all.

Gober followed with a walk and Sanchez reached on a one-out error. With two outs, Salazar came through with an RBI single up the middle that scored Rushing and ended a victory drought that dated back to Valentine’s Day for the Lady Jackets.

Howard Payne also scored single runs in the first on an RBI single by George that scored Patino, who walked, and in the third on a leadoff home run by Patino.

The Lady Jackets finished with 13 hits — three by George, two apiece by Patino, Winstead and Sanchez and one each by Salazar, Mullins, McLeod and Gober.

Rushing went the distance in the circle, yielding six runs on 16 hits with six strikeouts and two walks.

During Friday’s second game, Howard Payne owned a 3-1 lead after six innings, but gave up six runs in the top of the seventh.

Sanchez pitched all seven innings for the Lady Jackets and gave up five earned runs on 13 hits with two strikeouts and a walk. The HPU defense also committed a pair of errors.

HPU broke a 1-all tie in the bottom of the sixth as George led off with a single to right field, then Winstead unleashed a two-out, two-run homer.

The Lady Jackets pulled even at 1 in bottom of fourth as Winstead reached on a two-out throwing error allowing San Miguel, running for George who also reached on an Ozarks miscue, to score.

Sanchez finished with two of HPU’s seven hits, while Morales, Salazar, Patino, George and Winstead added one each.

Howard Payne will hit the road next weekend as it visits second-place Louisiana College.