CONWAY, Ark. – McNeese used two home runs to fuel a five-run fourth against the Nicholls State University softball team in the Southland Conference Championship and the Colonels went on to be defeated, 8-0, in five innings late Friday night at Farris Field.
First pitch for the championship game did not occur until 11 p.m. Friday night due to rain changing the schedule. The Colonels’ semifinal matchup against Central Arkansas took place at 8:10 p.m. with Nicholls defeating UCA, 4-2. If Nicholls would have defeated McNeese, they would have had to play a second time on Saturday morning to determine the champion.
With the loss, Nicholls finishes the season with a 37-20 record and garners runner up in the SLC postseason for the third time in program history. McNeese (42-16) earns its second-straight tournament title and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Jackie Johnson (17-12) suffered the loss, despite shutting down the Cowgirls through three innings. But the senior ran into trouble in the fourth as a Hailey Drew single broke a scoreless tie and Tori Yanitor and Carleigh Chamount capped the decisive inning with two-run homers.
Yanitor and Chaumont then struck again off of reliever Megan Landry in the fifth. Yanitor drove in two with a bases loaded single and Chaumont doubled home the final run for the Cowgirls’ third walk-off victory of the tournament.
Nicholls had three hits in the loss, getting singles by Amanda Gianelloni and Jessica Taylor, and a double by Samantha Mracich. Rachel Smith (17-7) tossed all five innings for McNeese, walking two and struck out two.
Although the Colonels were held scoreless, they had a few chances early to put runs on the board. An error and stolen base put a runner in scoring position to start the game, but Nicholls was unable to take advantage. In the second, Gianelloni singled before being thrown on a steal attempt at second after she overslid on the wet turf and was tagged out.
Mracich’s double came in the third with two outs before she was left stranded, and after McNeese scored five runs in the fourth, Nicholls answered with a single by Taylor and a walk from Brooklyn Devine to lead off the fifth. But Smith retired the next three batters to keep Nicholls off the board.
McNeese had eight hits on the night, with Drew joining Chaumont and Yanitor with two each.
The Colonels had three players named to the Southland All-Tournament Team – sophomores Gretchen Morgan, Veronica Villafranco and Megan Landry. Morgan led Nicholls with a .556 batting average (five hits) in the tournament, while Villafranco had four hits including her first career home run for a .400 average. Landry picked up both wins for Nicholls in 16.1 innings of work.
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