NACOGDOCHES, TX (Press Release)- Making it back to the postseason as the No. 5 seed after a solid regular season, the Stephen F. Austin softball team is set to take on fourth-seeded Central Arkansas in the first round of the 2016 Southland Conference Tournament on Wednesday at Cowgirl Diamond in Lake Charles, Louisiana. First pitch in the opening matchup is set for 1:30 p.m.
The winner of Wednesday’s first round game will advance to play the top-seeded conference champion McNeese at 6:30 p.m. The loser will drop to the losers bracket and next play on Thursday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. with opponent TBD in the double elimination style format.
The Ladyjacks ended the regular season with an even 13-13 record in SLC play and a 25-27 mark overall.
Last Time Out – The Ladyjacks dropped two of three games to rival Sam Houston State last weekend in the regular season series finale at SFA Softball Field. The Bearkats won 5-1 and 9-2 over the first two games before SFA capped the weekend with a 2-0 victory. Sophomore pitcher Callee Guffey was sharp in the circle in the Ladyjacks’ game three blanking, tossing seven strong frames to pick up the winning decision and a complete game shutout. She allowed just five hits while striking out four in the game.
Tournament History – SFA’s trip to the SLC Tournament this week is the team’s first appearance in the league postseason since 2014 and eighth trip overall. The Ladyjacks are 14-11 all-time in the event, winning it all twice and finishing second once. The last championship came in 2008 and SFA also hoisted the trophy back in 1990. Friday’s championship game winner will represent the conference in the NCAA Tournament as an automatic qualifier.
All-Conference Recognition – After a successful season in the heart of the Ladyjack order, juniors Brittany Lewis and Taylor LeFlore were each selected to the 2016 All-Southland Conference Softball Teams on Monday afternoon. Lewis landed a spot on the first team as a first baseman and LeFlore earned a place on the third team at the third base position. Sophomore catcher Taylor Fraccastoro was also recognized on the honorable mention list for the second straight year.
Lewis on a Tear – Brittany Lewis established herself as one of the premier hitters in the entire conference with a solid junior campaign for the Ladyjacks. In 26 league games, she led the SLC in batting average (.500), RBI (32), hits (38) and total bases (74) while ranking second in slugging (.974) and on-base percentage (.587) and third in home runs (9). She recorded two grand slams and hit safely in 22 straight SLC contests from March 13 – May 1.
Hot Bat at the Hot Corner – Taylor LeFlore joined Lewis for a lethal one-two punch in the middle of the Ladyjack lineup throughout the year and was recognized for her strong play with a spot on the All-SLC Third Team. Playing a pivotal role for SFA both offensively and defensively at the hot corner, LeFlore ended the season second on the team with a .292 batting average and 14th in the conference with 52 assists. In 24 league games, LeFlore recorded five doubles and drove in 10 runs for the Ladyjacks. She started the SLC season red hot and tallied seven multi-hit games during the stretch to help get her team back to the postseason.
Consistent Backstop – After playing and starting all 52 games at catcher for the Ladyjacks in 2016, sophomore Taylor Fraccastoro picked up honorable mention all-conference accolades for the second straight year. In 26 conference games on the season, she hit .237 with 16 runs, five doubles, three home runs and 13 RBI. She was also a perfect 7-for-7 in stolen base opportunities offensively.
RBI Machine – Brittany Lewis broke her own single season RBI record at Northwestern State two weekends ago and added to the total against Sam Houston State. She drove in two runs on Saturday to extend her mark to 52 RBI in 52 games played. She now holds the top three single season RBI performances in SFA history, recording 41 RBI last year and 44 as a freshman in 2014. She is the only Ladyjack to ever drive in 40+ RBI in three straight seasons and owns the career RBI record at SFA with 137.
Record Watch – Already with the RBI single season record to her name, Brittany Lewis could also break SFA’s single season home run record this year. With 11 long balls in 2016, Lewis needs just one more to tie Briana Bishop (2009) for the top spot in program history.
Against Central Arkansas – The Ladyjacks went 1-2 against the Bears in a three-game series at SFA Softball Field from March 18-19. UCA took the first game 8-6, SFA responded with a 9-7 result in game two and the Bears ended the weekend with a 7-2 victory to seal the series win. Brittany Lewis had a good weekend, batting .571 (4-for-7) with four runs, two doubles, one home run and three RBI to pace the SFA offense. Sophomore pitcher Makayla Sikes was credited with the winning decision for SFA, posting a 2.00 ERA in two appearances – one start – overall. She allowed 10 hits in 7.0 innings of work and struck out six batters during the set.
Scouting the Bears – The Bears enter the SLC Tournament with a 35-20 record overall, going 16-11 during SLC play in 2016. Down the backstretch of the season, they swept Houston Baptist from April 30 – May 1 before being swept in three games at the hands of McNeese last weekend. Offensively, UCA is led by Briana Whisenhunt (.309, 40 R), Jessie Taylor (.294, 12 HR, 48 RBI) and Sam Forrest (.286, 6 HR, 29 RBI) while Kayla Gomness (11-5, 2.96 ERA) and Shivaun Landeros (21-12, 3.50 ERA) handle a bulk of the pitching duties.
Up Next – With a win against UCA, the Ladyjacks would play top-seeded McNeese in the second round on Wednesday evening at 6:30 p.m. A loss would send SFA to the losers bracket, where it would face Nicholls, Lamar or Sam Houston State on Thursday at 1:30 p.m.