THIBODAUX, La. – After the Nicholls State University softball team lost the lead in the top of the fifth when McNeese plated three runs, sophomore Kasey Frederick answered in the bottom half as she cleared the left field wall for a two-run home run, lifting Nicholls to a 4-3 victory over the Cowgirls Friday night at the Colonel Softball Complex.
With the win, Nicholls (27-13, 13-3 SLC) pulls to within a game of McNeese (28-14, 14-2 SLC) for first place, with the series wrapping up Saturday with a noon doubleheader.
The battle between the top two teams in the standings turned out to be as good as advertised, with both squads performing admirably. Nicholls jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first when Veronica Villafranco and Sydney Bourg each drove in a run, but the visitors were finally able to get to Colonel starter Jackie Johnson (14-7) in the fifth. McNeese used four hits in the frame to take the lead, capped on a run-scoring double by Erika Piancastelli.
But Brooke Morris reached base on an infield single to start the Colonel fifth and Frederick put Nicholls back on top for good as her deep fly to left cleared Lauren Brown’s leaping attempt at the wall. Megan Landry went on to pitch the sixth and seventh to earn her fourth save of the season and third of the last two weekends.
Johnson dominated early on in the circle, striking out five batters through the first two innings. She finished with seven strikeouts while allowing three earned runs on six hits in 5.0 innings of work.
The Colonels gave Johnson an early lead to work with by doing some damage with two down against Rachel Smith in the opening frame. With two on, Villafranco doubled to left center to make it 1-0 and Bourg legged out an infield single to drive in Frederick.
Both teams were unable to score again until the fifth when McNeese took a 3-2 lead. The first two runs came on sacrifice flies before Nicholls elected to pitch to Piancastelli, the two-time Southland Player of the Year, with two outs, a runner on second and first base open. Piancastelli, who struck out in the first, laced a shot in the gap for her second-straight hit while bringing in the go-ahead run.
After Nicholls took the lead, Landry issued just a walk in the sixth before things got interesting in the seventh. Landry recorded the first out on a looking strikeout, then Morris saved a hit at second with an outstanding play to retire Justyce McClain, who had two hits for the Cowgirls. The next batter, Hailey Drew, sent a deep fly to left, but unlike Frederick’s homer, the ball barely stayed in play as Brooklyn Devine made the grab with her back against the wall to end the game.
Devine led Nicholls with two of the team’s eight hits on the night. Seven came against Smith (11-6), who took the loss after allowing four earned in 5.1 innings.
The series wraps up Saturday with a doubleheader at noon. Following the games, the Colonel softball team will have a Easter egg hunt. Fans are encouraged to bring their own basket or bag to participate in the event.