Ladyjacks blast three homers in 9-1 win

LAKE CHARLES, La. – A day after pounding out five home runs against McNeese State in a series-opening doubleheader sweep, the Stephen F. Austin Ladyjacks blasted three more long balls on Sunday on the way to a run-rule-shortened 9-1 verdict at Cowgirl Diamond. The win gives SFA its second series sweep of the Southland Conference season and keeps the Ladyjacks on top in the league standings.

SFA improves to 17-8 on the year and 10-2 in Southland play, while McNeese State falls to 18-19 overall and 6-9 in conference action. The Ladyjacks have now won four straight games and 14 of their last 16 contests.

Kendal Harper and Jill Bussell each homered for the first time this season, while Ashley Struchtemeyer ripped her third home run of the series.

Starter Monika Covington (7-5) kept the McNeese bats quiet as she spread five hits over five innings before giving up a solo home run to Molly Guidry in the bottom of the sixth. Covington didn't issue a walk and struck out eight.

SFA got on the board with Harper's two-run homer in the top of the third. Amber Price had drawn a one-out walk two at-bats before Harper came to the plate.

The Ladyjacks added three more runs in the fourth. Kayla Gutowski led off with a double – her third extra-base hit of the series – then cruised home on Struchtemeyer's fifth home run of the year. The junior second baseman went deep in each of Saturday's wins and finished the series with seven RBI.

Brittany Caruthers chased the long ball with a double to right-center and was lifted for pinch-runner Michele Huffman. Huffman took third on a passed ball, then scored on a squeeze bunt by Amber Price to give SFA a 5-0 lead.

The Ladyjacks played small ball to add a run in the fifth. Briana Bishop led off with an opposite-field single to right, then stole second. Krista Hallmark came in to run and moved to third on a base knock by Gutowski. The next batter, Caruthers, brought Hallmark across with a single up the middle.

SFA put the game away with a pinch-hit, three-run homer by Bussell in the top of the sixth. After Price drew a leadoff walk and Harper reached on a fielder's choice, Bussell came in to bat for Jessica Arana. The freshman responded by belting a home run to center for her first career long ball.

Covington worked around Guidry's home run and a single by Dani Price, striking out the side in the bottom half to preserve the eight-run cushion and end the game early.

With only one exception, every Ladyjack that got an at-bat in the game, registered a base hit. Gutowski went 3-for-4, and Caruthers was 2-for-4. Bethany Brown, Harper, Arana, Bussell, Bishop and Struchtemeyer each hit safely once.

As a team, the Ladyjacks blasted eight home runs in the series and outscored McNeese, 22-5.

SFA will be back on the diamond Friday, when the Ladyjacks open a three-game set at home against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. The series-opening doubleheader is set to start at 1 p.m. at SFA Field.