RUSTON – Louisiana Tech made it a memorable Senior Weekend as the Lady Techsters picked up a pair of Sunday victories 6-4 and 5-1 over North Texas to complete a three-game Conference USA series sweep over the Mean Green.
With the wins Tech (33-18, 16-5 C-USA) clinched the West Division of Conference USA and kept its game-and-a-half lead over FIU for the No. 2 seed in the upcoming league tournament in Hattiesburg May 10-13. Tech and FIU meet next weekend for a three-game series in Miami with the No. 2 seed on the line. The top two seeds in the C-USA Tournament earn a double bye in the event.
The Lady Techsters also registered wins No. 20 and 21 at home this year, marking the first time since 1987 that a LA Tech softball team has won 20 or more games at home in a season. The 16 regular season conference wins are also a program record.
Game 1: LA Tech 6, North Texas 4
Louisiana Tech used a five-run third inning to pick up the victory as Jazlyn Crowder and Pauline Tufi each launched home runs in the frame.
With Tech trailing 1-0 entering the inning, Crowder (2-4, HR, run, RBI) launched her sixth home run of the season off North Texas starter Jessica Elder deep over the left field fence to tie the game at 1-1. With two outs, North Texas appeared poised to get out of the inning without any more damage but Mean Green first baseman Rhylie Makawe allowed a Morgan Turkoly (0-4, run) ground ball to go through her legs. The mistake proved costly.
Tufi (1-2, HR, run, 2 RBI) followed with a two-run shot to left centerfield, the seventh of the season and the 34th of her career, to give Tech a 3-1 advantage. Tufi needs just two more home runs to tie the LA Tech career record of 36 held by Amberly Waits.
Ali Galaz (1-3, 2B, run) followed Tufi’s blast with a double to right center, chasing Elder from the game. Marilyn Rizzato (1-2, run) then walked and Katie Smith (2-2, RBI) reached on an infield single to load the bases. Senior Jessica Ball (1-3, 2 RBI) drove two more runs home with a single up the middle, giving Tech a 5-1 lead.
Tech added an insurance run in the bottom of the fifth inning on a two-out RBI single up the middle by Katie Smith, scoring pinch runner Kimmie Atienza. The run proved important.
Lady Techster starter Krystal De La Cruz was in cruise control until the sixth when North Texas scored three runs on four hits to close the gap to 6-4.
Preslee Gallaway came on in relief in the seventh. After hitting the leadoff batter to bring the tying run to the plate, Gallaway got help from her defense as second baseman Karlee Jensen (1-3) snagged a line drive and doubled the runner off first. Gallaway then retired Nichole Ochotnicki for the final out of the game to pick up her third save of the season.
De La Cruz (10-1) picked up her 10th win, allowing four runs – three earned – on six hits and two walks in 6.0 innings of action.
Game 2: LA Tech 5, North Texas 1
Junior Bailey Allen pitched seven strong innings and Louisiana Tech plated runs in four of its six frames to sweep the doubleheader with a 5-1 victory in the nightcap.
Allen (7-2) picked up her seventh win of the season, allowing only one unearned run on four hits and one walk with two strikeouts in the seven inning complete game performance.
The Lady Techsters wasted little time in taking the early lead as Tori Charters (run, SB) drew a one-out walk, stole second base and then scored on Morgan Turkoly’s (1-3, RBI) RBI single up the middle.
Allen kept the one-run lead safe, getting out of a small jam in the second inning thanks to some defensive help from right fielder Jazlyn Crowder (2-3, run, RBI). With runners on first and second and two outs, Crowder chased down a line drive in the right field corner off the bat of Rhylie Makawe to escape the inning unscathed.
Tech picked up a run in the fourth inning. Ali Galaz (2-3, 2 doubles, 2 runs) doubled down the left field line and then scored on a two-out single to left center by Katie Smith (1-2, 2 RBI). The Lady Techsters led 2-0.
Senior catcher Natalie Moran then led the fifth inning off by drawing a walk which ignited the two run frame. Berkley Calapp (run) re-entered the game for Moran at first, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Karlee Jensen and scored on an RBI single up the middle from Crowder. Jessica Ball (1-1, 2B, RBI) then followed with an RBI double to centerfield as the Tech lead increased to 4-0.
After North Texas plated an unearned run in the top of the sixth, Tech answered in the bottom as Galaz doubled to left center, moved to third on a bunt single by Marilyn Rizzato (2-3) and scored on a Smith sacrifice fly to center.
Allen retired North Texas in order in the seventh to secure the win.