Alexandria, La. – No. 12 LSUA will make its third trip to the NAIA Softball World Series in four years, clinching the return trip by sweeping through the Alexandria Bracket of the NAIA Softball Tournament Opening Round, defeating No. 25 Science & Arts of Oklahoma 4-2 in the Bracket Finals Wednesday afternoon at Generals Field.
After a scoreless first inning, the Generals scratched the scoreboard first in the top of the second inning. PJ Leon led off with a single, and then took second on a failed pickoff attempt by USAO catcher Dagan Lampkin. She eventually scored on Kennedy Beard’s RBI single to the right-center gap to give LSUA a 1-0 lead, the first of three straight innings where the Generals scored.
Jacy Ummel led off the third inning with a single and moved to second when Danelle Billings drew a one-out walk. Lauren Rachal brought Ummel home with a shot that got to the wall in right-center to make it 2-0 LSUA through three full innings. The Generals added to the lead in the fourth as Kimber Gruehl led off with a single, was sacrificed over to second, and then moved to third on a wild pitch. Julinn Torres eventually brought Gruehl home on a RBI single to left field for a 3-0 Generals lead.
The Drovers weren’t going quietly, however. USAO pulled one run back in the bottom of the fourth as Tate Landmark led off with a single through the left side of the infield Shania Beck’s double moved her to third. A slow roller on the right side of the infield allowed her to come in to score USAO’s first run of the game. Landmark made it happen again in the sixth inning, hitting a double to left with one out, and then moved to third on a fly out to deep left-center. LSUA catcher Lauren Rachal would try to pick her off of third, but the throw was arrant and Landmark scored to pull the Droves to within a run at 3-2.
Realizing the momentum shift, LSUA got a key insurance run in the top of the seventh inning. With a runner on first, Lauren Rachal grounded into a fielder’s choice to reach base. With Alexes Sepulvado pinch running, PJ Leon took a pitch to the wall in right-center that allowed Sepulvado to come all the way around from first to score the game’s final run. That would be all Marci West, the RRAC Pitcher of the Year, would need as she got the Drovers up and down in order in the bottom half of the inning to close out the tournament and send the Generals to the NAIA Softball World Series.
Marci West (24-5) threw her 19th complete game of the season from the circle. She gave up eight hits and two runs, one earned, while she struck out three and didn’t walk any Drover batters. PJ Leon led the LSUA offensive attack with three hits in four at bats with a RBI and a run scored. Danelle Billings had two hits, while Julinn Torres and Kennedy Beard each also collected a RBI.
Jordan Detherage (19-7) took the loss as she threw two innings and gave up three hits and two runs, one earned. Tate Landmark finished the game in the circle, giving up seven hits and two runs, both earned, while walking three and striking out two. Landmark was also the Drovers’ top batter with two hits in three at-bats and two runs scored. Caitlin Hall collected the team’s lone RBI. USAO finished the season 40-18.
The Generals (49-8) now await their seeding for the 37th Annual NAIA Softball World Series, this year being played at Legends Way Ball Fields in Clermont, Florida May 26th through June 1st. The seeding and brackets are expected to be released later Wednesday evening.