For the first time since 2008 and just the sixth time in its NCAA Division I program history, the Stephen F. Austin softball team has eclipsed the 30-win mark in a single season. The Ladyjacks improved to 30-18 on the season Tuesday afternoon at SFA Softball Field with a convincing 9-0 victory in six innings over Texas Southern for SFA's final regular season non-conference tilt of the spring.
"I'm proud of my players for the hard work they've put in," head coach Nicole Dickson said following the win. "We wouldn't be here without their effort and attitude and them buying in and trusting the process. We're just scratching the surface of what SFA softball is going to be about here. This is just a good beginning."
SFA lined 10 hits in Tuesday's triumph over the visiting Lady Tigers (20-15-1), using a five-run sixth inning and getting a two RBI walk-off double from senior left fielder Madison Clements. A trio of Ladyjack pitchers held Texas Southern to five hits in the contest as the Lady Tigers left nine base runners stranded.
"I felt like (Bryana) Novegil and (Taylor) Fraccastoro did a good job of getting on base," added coach Dickson. "Amber Landry's bat has been really hot as of late and Madison Selman had quality at bats as well and hit the ball in play hard. The game felt tight for a little while, we were hitting the ball hard but right at people. It's nice to know that our offense is really seeing the ball well and doing its job because it puts less pressure on our pitchers and defense."
Opening up the game in the bottom of the first inning, SFA took a three-run lead after scoring on a two RBI single to left field by senior third baseman Amber Landry and an RBI single down the left field line from freshman center fielder Katherine Thompson. The Ladyjacks tacked on another un in the bottom of the second to take a 4-0 advantage, scoring when freshman shortstop Bryana Novegil doubled to allow Selman to reach home plate.
Three scoreless innings of play ensued as Texas Southern loaded the bases in the top of the fifth following a walk, single and Ladyjack fielding error. However, a groundout quickly brought an end to the frame without the Lady Tigers capitalizing. SFA collected two hits in the bottom of the fifth but couldn't bring anybody across home plate before Texas Southern loaded the bases once again in the top of the sixth. A walk and a pair of singles gave the Lady Tigers runners at all bases with just one out, but sophomore right-hander Jordan Llinas entered the circle and retired two in order to end the half inning.
A pair of walks began the bottom of the sixth before senior catcher Taylor Fraccastoro knocked in an RBI double to give the Ladyjacks a 5-0 lead. A sacrifice flyout to right field by junior first baseman Margarita Corona made it 6-0 before Landry smacked an RBI double to left field for SFA's seventh run of the game. The Ladyjacks recorded their second out of the frame but then got a walk to set up Selman's walk-off hit. Taking the first pitch she saw, Selman launched a two RBI double to the right field fence as Landry and Thompson touched home plate to end the contest at 9-0.
Landry continued her hot play at the plate, going 3-for-3 with three RBI and two runs scored. Fraccastoro was 2-for-2 with an RBI, two runs scored and a walk, while Selman finished 2-for-4 with two RBI and a run. Senior right-handed pitcher Makayla Sikes (17-7) earned her 17th win of the season inside the circle, tossing the opening four innings and striking out two. Llinas collected her first save of the season by striking out one and retiring both batters she faced. Sophomore righty Autumn Anderson put in one and 1/3 innings of relief work on the rubber and notched a strikeout.
The Lady Tigers were led by shortstop Dominique Tello, who went 2-for-3 at the plate. Texas Southern made use of its bullpen as five different pitchers saw action. Freshman right-hander Chelsea Baxter (1-2) threw the first two innings of the affair and took the loss with one strikeout in 12 batters faced.
The Ladyjacks will host Abilene Christian over the weekend for their final Southland Conference series of 2018 as SFA's Southland tournament seed will be determined. The Wildcats and Ladyjacks will clash in a doubleheader Friday, May 4 at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., before SFA takes on ACU for senior day Saturday, May 5 at 12 p.m.