Lady Jackets edged by Sul Ross, 5-4, in softball series opener

Derrick Stuckly Brownwood Bulletin

With postseason hopes still alive, the Howard Payne Lady Jackets experienced a loss they didn’t need Friday, falling to the last-place Sul Ross Lady Lobos, 5-4, in the opener of a three-game American Southwest Conference softball series.

The Lady Jackets (8-21, 4-17) trail eighth-place Ozarks (12-18, 6-16) by 1.5 games with five conference games remaining, as the top eight seeds will move on to the double elimination ASC championship tournament hosted by the top seed April 30-May 3.

In Friday’s contest, Sul Ross (3-21, 3-17) chalked up three runs in the bottom of the first inning and never looked back. The Lady Lobos stretched their lead to 5-1 after five innings before HPU attempted to rally, scoring one run in the sixth inning and two more in the seventh.

Trailing 5-2 as the seventh began, Erin McLeod reached on a one-out walk and Amanda Cruddas followed with a two-out free pass. Cherita George then singled to right field to drive home McLeod, while Taylor Rushing delivered an RBI base hit to right field that brought home Cruddas. With runners at the corners and two outs, Adrienne Sanchez was retired on a foul out to left field to end the game.

Sul Ross struck for three first-inning runs on RBI singles by Shelby Doederlein and Isaura Rodriguez and an RBI fielder’s choice by Nicole Stolz.

HPU trimmed the deficit to 3-1 in the second as Cruddas doubled with one out and scored when George followed with an RBI double to right-center field.

The Lady Lobos extended their advantage to 5-1 in the fifth on RBI singles by Doederlein and Destanie Hernandez.

Howard Payne closed the gap to 5-2 in the sixth as George reached on a leadoff error and scored on a two-out RBI double by Kodi Glosson.

Of the Lady Jackets’ nine hits, four went for extra bases — all doubles. George finished with two hits and a pair of RBIs, Sanchez added two hits and McLeod, Cruddas, Glosson, Rushing and Gaby Muniz chipped in one hit each.

Rushing pitched all seven innings for HPU, allowing three earned runs on eight hits with one strikeout and one walk.

Sul Ross used three pitchers — Alex Biddle, Elizabeth Livingston and Hernandez — who yielded three earned runs with one strikeout and a pair of walks.

Doederlein and Jessica Castellano finished with two hits apiece for the Lady Lobos.

Howard Payne and Sul Ross will conclude their three-game series with a noon doubleheader today.