LAKE CHARLES, LA (Press Release)- Annie Mehringer launched an early home run and pitcher Callee Guffey withheld a late surge to lift the Stephen F. Austin softball team over Central Arkansas 4-3 in the first round of the 2016 Southland Conference Tournament on Wednesday afternoon at Cowgirl Field.
The Ladyjacks have advanced to play top-seeded McNeese in the second round on Wednesday evening. The game is tentatively set for 6:30 p.m. but will officially start 45 minutes after the conclusion of the Nicholls/Lamar contest.
Mehringer led SFA at the plate in game one, going 2-for-3 with a two-run homer and a single.Faith Talley, Taylor Fraccastoro and Taylor Vick also recorded hits on the day with Vick andAutumn Holloway driving in one run apiece.
Guffey (W, 11-5) turned in a quality start, allowing three runs on seven hits over a complete 7.0 innings. She walked one batter and struck out two in the win.
The Bears chose to walk First Team All-Southland Conference first baseman Brittany Lewiswith one out and nobody on in the first inning and Mehringer made them pay. The sophomore outfielder knocked a two-run bomb deep over the fence in left center with two outs to push SFA out in front early, 2-0. The dinger was Mehringer's fifth of the year.
UCA got one back in the second inning on a solo homer by Audrey Pratt, but Guffey settled in over the middle stretch of the game.
Play was paused in the third inning due to rain and lightning in the area, but the inclement weather didn't affect Guffey's play in the slightest. The sophomore hurler retired eight straight batters spanning parts of the second, third and fourth innings and turned in four straight scoreless innings after UCA's home run.
The `Jacks extended their lead to 4-1 with two tallies in the seventh inning. Talley and Fraccastoro hit back-to-back singles up the middle to start the frame and were joined on the base paths by Courtney Chambers after she was hit by a pitch. In a bases-loaded, pinch-hit opportunity, Vick stepped in and found a gap in the infield for an RBI single. Holloway later grounded out to second, allowing Fraccastoro to score.
The Bears scored two runs in the bottom half to cut into the Ladyjack lead, 4-3, but Chambers made a leaping grab at shortstop to end the game.
"I told our team going out that the seventh is UCA's best inning," said head coach Gay McNutt. "It's important to get the leadoff batter and keep them off the bases. It came down to that last out but we got it done.
"I thought Callee Guffey did a great job and our defense played outstanding throughout the game. There were a couple plays in the outfield that were huge for us. I'm very pleased with our overall effort today."
With a win against McNeese on Wednesday evening, the Ladyjacks would advance to the semifinals on Thursday afternoon.