CONWAY, Ark. – The Nicholls State University softball team hung close with top-seed McNeese through five innings, but a seven-run frame put the game away as the Colonels dropped a 11-2 contest in six innings in the Southland Conference Tournament Thursday evening at Farris Field.
With the setback, Nicholls (36-19) falls to the lower bracket and will play Friday at 1:30 p.m. for a chance to take on McNeese in the championship. The Colonels await the winner of No. 5 Central Arkansas and No. 6 Northwestern State, which will be played Friday morning. The schedule was adjusted due to severe weather in the area Thursday night.
The seven-run inning was fueled by five hits from McNeese and four Colonel errors. The Cowgirls outhit Nicholls in the game, 10-7, but the miscues led to five unearned runs. Nicholls headed into the tournament with the league’s best fielding percentage.
Megan Landry (15-7) took the loss, allowing four earned runs on five hits in 1.2 innings. Jackie Johnson tossed 4.0 innings of relief, surrendering two earned runs on four hits.
Gretchen Morgan and Veronica Villafranco led Nicholls at the plate with two hits each. Morgan has had an outstanding tournament so far, going 4-for-5 with an RBI.
McNeese (41-16) jumped on Nicholls early with a two-run first. After a leadoff bunt single and two walks loaded the bases for the Cowgirls, Haley Drew doubled off the left field fence for the early lead.
The Colonels got one back in the bottom half on a Kasey Frederick double to left center. Samantha Mracich led off by reaching on an error and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Sydney Bourg. Frederick then took a 1-2 offering from Baylee Corbello (11-3) and sent it into gap to cut the lead in half.
In the top of the second, McNeese answered with a two-run home run from Erika Piancastelli. The Cowgirls’ two-out rally started with a base hit before Piancastelli lifted a Landry pitch over the left field wall.
Trailing 4-1, Morgan started the fourth with a single and Villafranco doubled in the gap in left center to put runners in scoring position. But pinch runner Maegen Ellis was thrown out at home trying to score on a wild pitch. The Colonels trimmed the deficit to two later in the frame when Kimmie Rodriguez stole second and Elexus Trenkle was able to score on the play.
But in the sixth, McNeese exploded for seven runs, despite only one of their five hits going for extra bases. Three of the four singles did not leave the infield, but the Colonel errors aided the decisive inning.
Morgan and Villafranco each singled in the sixth, but a double play helped McNeese end the rally and seal the six-inning victory.
Justyce McClain paced McNeese with three hits, while Corbello scattered five hits and struck out four in 5.0 innings.
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