Ladyjacks smack bearkats twice in Huntsville

HUNTSVILLE, Texas - Rains and a change of venue did nothing to cool the Stephen F. Austin softball team, as the Ladyjacks swept a Southland Conference-opening doubleheader at Sam Houston State Tuesday to give them six wins in their last seven games. SFA took a 6-3 win over the Bearkats in the opener, then wrapped up the day with a 10-5 win in Game 2.

The series was originally scheduled to be played in Nacogdoches, but heavy rains rendered SFA Softball Field unplayable, moving the games to Huntsville. With the wins SFA evens its record at 6-6. The Bearkats fell to 4-10.

The Bearkats committed seven errors on the day, and SFA capitalized on the miscues in both games.

SFA jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning of Game 1 thanks to some early hitting and a pair of errant pitches. Kendal Harper led off with an infield single, then Jessica Arana chased her with a double to left. Two at-bats later, Harper scored on a wild pitch. Arana, who moved to third on that play, came home on a passed ball.

The Bearkats answered with a home run by Erin Burford in the bottom of the second, then took a 3-2 lead in the fourth on a solo homer by Kim Damian and a two-out run on an infield error.

SFA, meanwhile, couldn't get any offense going, as the Ladyjacks mustered just three hits in innings two through six.

But Sam Houston left the door wide open with three errors in the seventh inning, and SFA took advantage. Kayla Gutowski reached on an error to lead off, then moved to second when Karissa Jones singled to center. Amber Price then put down a sacrifice bunt and reached on a fielder's choice to load the bases.

Gutowski tied the score at three when she scored on a fielder's choice off the bat of Bethany Brown. Sam Houston attempted to throw Gutowski out at home, but the Bearkat catcher was unable to complete the play and was charged with the inning's second error. The Bearkat backstop committed another error on the next play, a fielder's choice that allowed Harper to reach base. This time Price and Jones both came home to score and Brown and Harper advanced to third and second, respectively.

After Brown was caught at home on a botched squeeze play and Arana grounded out, Brittany Caruthers drove in the final run of the game with an RBI double to center.

SFA starter Monika Covington put the Bearkats away quietly in the seventh, striking out two of the four batters she faced. Covington (1-4) worked all seven innings to record her first win of the season. She was charged with two earned runs on four hits and a walk and tied a season-high with 10 strikeouts.

Caruthers was 2-for-4 to lead the Ladyjacks at the plate. Harper, Arana, Briana Bishop, Jones and Price had one hit apiece.

In Game 2, SFA banged out season-highs in both hits (14) and runs (10) and got three more errors from Sam Houston to complete the sweep.

Sam Houston took a 2-0 lead in the first, then answered a pair of second-inning runs by SFA with three more in the third. But the Ladyjacks scored eight runs over the next three innings, including a five-run fifth, to seal the win.

Bishop led off the second inning with an infield single, then moved to second on a ground-out and took third on a base knock up the middle by Gutowski. She scored on a ground ball by Jones. Gutowski tied the score when she came around from second on a single by Brown.

SFA starter Angela White walked the first three Bearkats she faced in the bottom of the third. After an infield pop-up for the first out of the inning, she was replaced by Lauren Luetge. Bishop got a ground ball and cut down a runner at home on the first batter Luetge faced, but Ashley Isbell laced a three-run double in the next at-bat, giving Sam Houston a 5-2 lead.

The lead was short-lived, though. SFA scored two runs in the top of the fourth. Ashley Struchtemeyer and Gutowski led off with back-to-back singles. Struchtemeyer scored on a one-out single by Price, then Gutowski came home on an RBI ground-out by Brown.

In the fifth inning, Sam Houston heaped three errors on top of three hits to help SFA put up a five spot. The Ladyjacks loaded the bases when Arana and Bishop wrapped singles around an error that allowed Caruthers to reach. A second error put Struchtemeyer on base and brought Arana home to tie the score. In the next at-bat, Gutowski reached on an error, and Caruthers scored, giving SFA its first lead of the game.

After two straight fielder's choices cut down runners at home and kept the bases loaded, Brown tripled to the gap in right-center, bringing home three runs and giving SFA all the insurance it would need.

The Ladyjacks set the final score in the sixth, when Arana led off with a single then scored on a double by Bishop.

Covington relieved Luetge with two out in the sixth and held the Bearkats scoreless, striking out the side in the bottom of the seventh.

Luetge (1-0) took the win after tossing 2.1 innings. She issued two hits and a walk and struck out two. White was charged with five earned runs on seven hits in 3.1 innings. She walked five and struck out one.

Arana and Bishop each posted three hits in the game. Arana scored twice, and Bishop drove in a run and scored a run. Gutowski, Price and Brown had two hits apiece, and Struchtemeyer and Jones each went 1-for-4.

The Ladyjacks will wrap up the series Wednesday with a single game scheduled to start at 2 p.m.