NACOGDOCHES, Texas – In its series-opening doubleheader against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Friday, Stephen F. Austin turned the tables on the top offensive club in the Southland Conference. The Ladyjacks batted .442 with five home runs in a pair of victories that extended SFA's current win streak to a season-best of six games.
SFA took a 10-3 win in the opener, then wrapped up the sweep with a run-rule-shortened 10-2 verdict in the second game. The wins strengthened the Ladyjacks' hold on the Southland Conference lead, improving to 12-2 in league play with a 19-8 overall record. The Islanders, who came into the day with a .316 batting average that led the Southland, fell to 23-13 on the year with a 9-8 record in conference action.
SFA pounded out 23 hits in all – 11 in the opener and 12 in Game 2 – and added four doubles to the five home runs for an .808 slugging percentage in the two games combined. Over the last six games the Ladyjacks are batting .371 with 15 home runs and a .731 slugging percentage.
SFA took an early lead in Game 1 with a three-run second inning. Brittany Caruthers led off with a double to right-center. After she was tagged out on a fielder's choice by Karissa Jones, Amber Price blasted the first home run of the day, a two-run shot to left-center. Bethany Brown then drew a walk and moved to second on a bunt single by Kendal Harper. Jessica Arana then lined out sharply to left, but Briana Bishop got a two-out single to right to score Brown, giving SFA a 3-0 edge.
The Islanders answered with a run in the top of the third. After a single and an error put runners on second and third with no outs, SFA starter Monika Covington got a strikeout and a pop-up. Caley Jeter then came through for Corpus with an infield single that scored Meagan McKinney from third. Lauren Sanders was caught at home with a strong throw by Arana to end the inning.
After a scoreless bottom half, A&M-Corpus tied the count in the fourth with a solo homer by Brittany Tucker and a run-scoring fielder's choice off the bat of Cassie Redman.
The Ladyjacks got back in front on a leadoff homer by Bishop in the bottom of the fifth, then put the game away with a five-hit, six-run sixth inning. Brown drew a one-out walk, then Harper ripped an opposite-field home run that curled just fair around the pole in left field. A single by Arana followed by a Bishop double left pinch-runners Michele Huffman and Krista Hallmark on second and third with one out.
Kayla Gutowski reached on a fielder's choice in the next at-bat. Huffman was caught in a rundown trying to score on the play. Gutowski moved to second, and Hallmark took third on the play. The next batter, Ashley Struchtemeyer, singled up the middle scoring Hallmark. Caruthers then blasted a long home run way over the wall in left field, setting the final score.
Covington picked up the win to move to 8-5. She was charged with two earned runs on six hits and four walks with one strikeout.
SFA set the tone early in Game 2 with a six-run second inning. Gutowski led off with a single then moved to second on Struchtemeyer's fielder's choice. Caruthers then ripped her second home run of the day.
Three at-bats later, Brown got a two-out single then took second on an infield hit by Harper. The base knock was the 201st of Harper's career, giving her the SFA career record. Both players scored on a double to right-center by Arana, then Bishop brought Arana around with an RBI single.
Ladyjack starter Angela White held the Islanders scoreless on one hit through four innings. Her team gave her two more runs in the bottom of the fourth. Price singled down the right field line to start things off, then Brown sacrificed her to second with a sacrifice bunt. Harper then doubled to right-center, bringing Price across the plate. After a ground ball and a hit batsman, Gutowski singled to center, scoring Harper to give SFA an 8-0 lead.
A&M-Corpus got two runs on three hits in the top of the fifth to extend the game, but the Ladyjacks put up two more in the bottom half to seal the run-rule victory.
Caruthers led off with a single through the left side, and Jones followed with a base knock to left. Pinch-runners Hallmark and Cheryl Boyett moved to third and second, respectively, when Price reached on an error. Brown lofted a sacrifice fly to right, scoring Hallmark. Boyett then ended the game when she scored from third on a wild pitch.
White (10-3) gave up two runs on four hits and a walk and struck out four in five innings.
Harper and Bishop each went 4-for-6 on the day with a double and home run, driving in three runs apiece to lead SFA at the plate. Caruthers went 4-for-7 with two runs scored and six RBI on two homers and a double. Arana was 4-for-7, driving in two and scoring once.
The Ladyjacks and Islanders will wrap up the three-game series Saturday with a single contest set to begin at 1 p.m.