From SFA Athletics
The matchup is all set.
The 2018 Southland Softball Tournament has begun on the campus of McNeese at Joe Miller Field in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and the Stephen F. Austin softball team will take to the diamond Wednesday, May 9 at 1:30 for its first game of the now six-team double-elimination tournament. The second-seeded Ladyjacks (31-20) will face No. 3 seed and tournament host McNeese.
Wednesday's game between SFA and either McNeese will be streamed live online via the Southland Digital Network and through the Southland Conference app, available on Roku, Apple TV, Android TV and Amazon Fire. Richard Dow, Bruce Merchant and Tony Taglavore are sharing play-by-play duties of the 2018 Southland Softball Tournament and will call the game. Live statistics of the contest can be followed via Southland.org.
This past Sunday, the Ladyjacks clinched the No. 2 seed for this week's Southland Tournament by defeating visiting Abilene Christian 3-1 on senior day at SFA Softball Field. SFA had to win the game in order to claim the second seed, or the Ladyjacks would have slipped to the No. 4 seed.
Despite finishing the regular season in a three-way tie with McNeese and Southeastern Louisiana, all with an identical 18-9 Southland record, the Ladyjacks earned the No. 2 seed based on the league office's tiebreaker procedures. SFA was the Southland West Division champions, boasting a 12-3 record against western division opponents, while the Cowgirls and the Lady Lions each posted 9-6 records in the Southland East Division. Due to the Ladyjacks not facing Southeastern Louisiana this spring, a head-to-head tiebreaker procedure could not be used and the conference office had to turn to each team's record against divisional opponents.
The Ladyjacks are making their ninth Southland Tournament appearance in program history, first since 2016 and just third since the 2010 season. SFA has posted a record of 17-13 (.566) at the Southland Tournament in their previous eight appearances. In 2016, SFA went 3-2 and reached the finals of the back draw before bowing out to third-seeded Lamar. The Ladyjacks went 2-2 in the 2014 version of the Southland Tournament before being knocked out in the back draw finals as well.
During SFA's last Southland Tournament trip to Lake Charles in 2016, the Ladyjacks staged an improbable comeback for one of the most memorable moments in program history. In the first round of back draw elimination play, SFA trailed rival Sam Houston State 10-3 heading into the seventh inning. The Ladyjacks found a way to score 11 runs, nine of which came with two outs, in the top of the frame to take a 14-10 lead. Only giving up one score in the bottom of the seventh, SFA held on for a dramatic 14-11 victory.
SFA has claimed two Southland Tournament titles, winning the championship in both 2008 and 1990. The Ladyjacks were upended 3-0 by Northwestern State in the championship round of the 1990 Southland Tournament but claimed a 6-3 triumph in the if necessary championship game to claim their first conference tournament title in SFA's NCAA Division I era. During the 2008 Southland Tournament in San Marcos, Texas, the Ladyjacks won three consecutive games to capture the title, defeating the likes of McNeese (8-0, six innings) and Texas State (3-2) and Nicholls (2-1) in the championship game. SFA was the No. 4 seed in both of its Southland Tournament championship runs.
The Purple and White from Texas' oldest town has made one of the most notable turnarounds in all of Division I softball. After going 17-33 overall and 9-15 in Southland play just one year ago, the Ladyjacks have nearly doubled their win total this season. SFA finished ninth in the final Southland standings in 2017 and finished the 2018 regular season tied for second in the league. The Ladyjacks own an impressive 31-20 overall record after going 18-9 in conference play. Throughout league play, SFA earned seven Southland series wins out of nine conference series, dropping series only to regular season champion Nicholls and ACU. The 31 wins are the most in a single season for the Ladyjacks in 10 years while the seven Southland series wins and 18 conference victories represent the most for SFA since 2010, when the Ladyjacks captured their lone regular season title.
Just last Tuesday, with a 9-0 rout of Texas Southern in six innings, SFA earned its 30th win of the season, marking the Ladyjacks' first 30-win campaign in the last decade and just the sixth in Division I program history.
On Monday, a total of five Ladyjack softball players garnered All-Southland recognition. Senior third baseman Amber Landry highlighted SFA's selections as she was named to the first team, while senior catcher Taylor Fraccastoro and senior right-handed pitcher Makayla Sikes both claimed a spot on the All-Southland Second Team. Freshman second baseman Bryana Novegil and junior first baseman Margarita Corona each earned All-Southland honorable mention. For Landry, it marked the second-strait year of earning All-Southland accolades after being named to the second team in 2017. Fraccastoro was named All-Southland honorable mention as both a freshman and sophomore in 2015 and 2016 but was selected to a team for the first time in her career, along with Sikes. In her inaugural collegiate season, Novegil has been sensational at the leadoff spot for the Ladyjacks, while Corona, a transfer from Pima Community College, has been just as impressive as SFA's most clutch hitter.
Just two short weekends ago, the Ladyjacks took two out of three games from visiting McNeese in Nacogdoches. The two teams entered the weekend's Southland series in a three-way tie for first place in the league standings as the Cowgirls topped SFA 5-0 in the opener Friday, April 27. However, the Ladyjacks rebounded with two impressive victories. SFA's offense exploded on Saturday, April 28 as the Ladyjacks scored 15 runs on 18 hits to sweep McNeese in a doubleheader, 11-8 and 4-3.
SFA has gone 16-19 against McNeese since 2008 as this season's Southland series win represented the Ladyjacks' first conference series win over the Cowgirls since 2012.