CONWAY, Ark. – Despite one of Northwestern State’s best offensive performances of the season, the No. 6 seed Lady Demons’ campaign ended Friday in a 7-4 loss to No. 5 seed Central Arkansas in a Southland Conference Tournament elimination game.
NSU (23-33-1) pounded out a season-hig 12 hits against an SLC opponent, three of which by senior Brittney Jones, but the Lady Demons couldn’t climb out of a rain-induced hole in the first inning.
The Bears (26-33) scored four first-inning runs, three of which came with two NSU pitchers throwing rain-soaked balls in a game that was delayed just 14 minutes in.
The damage was done – starter Katelyn Boles (5-15) and reliever Mikayla Brown combined to walk five batters as UCA had RBIs on a bases-loaded walk, a sacrifice fly and a ground out.
The original 11 a.m. game was suspended until 5 p.m., and UCA tacked on its final first-inning run on a fielding error after restarting the game with runners on the corners.
But the Lady Demons battled back, cutting UCA’s lead to 4-2 and eventually to 7-4 with the bases loaded in the seventh inning.
UCA pitcher Kayla Gomness induced the game-ending ground out as NSU ended its tournament 1-2 after elimination No. 4 seed Sam Houston State.
“Fighting back says a lot of about the character of this team,” said NSU coach Donald Pickett. “We had the winning run at the plate at the end of a game where a lot didn’t go our way.
“We hadn’t had a lot go our way this entire this season, but I am proud of the fight.”
NSU chipped away at UCA’s four-run lead with a Sidney Salmans RBI ground out in the third inning and a Hayley Barbazon RBI single in the fourth inning – capping a span where NSU put six runners in scoring position in the first four innings.
A total of 10 Lady Demons were stranded in the loss.
“We had a lot of hits, but we left too many people on base,” Pickett said. “We made adjustments to (Kayla Gomness) that we didn’t make last weekend in the regular season against her.
“We increased our chances of winning by the way we hit the ball, but we couldn’t get enough going once runners were in scoring position.”
UCA’s Bailey Reynolds increased the lead to 5-2 with a fifth-inning sacrifice fly before two unearned runs in the seventh inning widened UCA’s edge to 7-2.
NSU put themselves within striking distance with a Kellye Kincannon sacrifice fly RBI and a Jones RBI single to slice UCA’s advantage to 7-4 in the seventh inning.
Mikayla Sorosiak singled and Kaylee Isenburg walked to load the bases with two outs before Gomness ended the game with a ground ball out.
Jones finished the game 3-for-4 with an RBI, ending her three-game tournament 6-for-10 with two home runs and two doubles and three RBIs.
Kincannon, Sorosiak and Barbazon each collected two hits in the season finale.
Brown pitched seven relief innings after Boles faced the first two batters, allowing five runs (two earned) on four hits and seven walks. Five of NSU’s nine walks came in steady rain before the delay.
Gomness allowed four runs on 12 hits and four walks.
NSU’s four-year senior class of Jones, Kincannon and Sorosiak ended their careers with three Southland Conference Tournament appearances, winning the tournament in 2014 to qualify for the NCAA Tournament and taking the 2015 regular season conference title.
Senior Michaela Johnson was part of that 2015 team while Jordan Rains was NSU’s most consistent hitter the second half of this season to end her two-year NSU career.