NATCHITOCHES — Northwestern State’s seniors can extend their careers by winning the series this weekend against Central Arkansas, and two seniors delivered when the Lady Demons needed them most in Friday’s opener.
Senior Jordan Rains looped a single down the left-field line to score Kellye Kincannon in the sixth inning for the game’s only run in a 1-0 win against the Bears.
Kincannon started the two-out rally with a double before sprinting home on Rain’s RBI.
“I just had to relax and be confident — not trying to do too much,” Rains said. “Kellye went up there and did her job, and Mikayla Brown worked her tail off in the circle.
“Everybody was working on defense as well. We were putting balls in play today, but Kellye finally delivered. (NSU coach Donald Pickett) told me to trust my hands and go with it, and I trusted that and didn’t over think.”
The final regular season series ends with a Saturday doubleheader at noon as NSU (22-29-1, 12-13 Southland Conference) moved into a three-way tie for fifth among tournament-eligible teams scraping for one of six spots. UCA (12-13 SLC) and Southeastern (12-13 SLC) are the other two teams tied for those spots, and the Lady Demons own a tiebreaker over the Lions with an earlier series win.
Splitting Saturday’s games guarantees NSU a spot in the Southland Conference Tournament, and the Lady Demons could climb as high as the No. 4 seed with a pair of wins.
“Game one is usually the most important because it sets the tone for the rest of the series,” Brown said.
Rains’ RBI supported a shutout by Brown (15-12) — her fifth shutout of the season and fourth against a Southland Conference opponent this season.
Brown allowed just two hits in her seven innings, dodging four walks and a hit batsman to go along with her four strikeouts.
“I was just spinning the ball and trying to keep the guessing throwing curves at different spots,” Brown said. “I wasn’t getting the inside part of the plate, so I think I was trying to overthrow and just had to calm myself down and get the last out.”
Central Arkansas’ best chance to score came in the fifth inning when three Bears drew two-out walks to load the bases, but Brown induced a Cylla Hill pop up.
The Bears had two runners in scoring position in the first inning, but Brown produced a pop up to end the only other real UCA threat of the day.
Brown’s counterpart Kayla Gomness (15-16) was the hard-luck loser by allowing one run on five hits and one walk in six innings.
“This time of year close to the postseason, it’s about getting good pitching, making plays and getting timely hits,” said NSU coach Donald Pickett. “We got a couple of two-out hits back to back, and Kellye just missed some at-bats earlier. Jordan struggled early in the game, but she kept adjusting and fought and fought, and she got it done.
“Brown did really well, and there was only that one inning where she struggled a little bit, tried to overthrow. But she came back and got the outs we needed. She attacked the zone really well for the most part today.”