RUSTON – After pushing the start time back six hours due to severe weather in the area, Louisiana Tech used five extra base hits and some key defensive plays to down North Texas 5-3 in Conference USA action Saturday night.
The two teams will meet for a doubleheader Sunday at 1 p.m. Senior Day ceremonies for the four Lady Techsters seniors will follow the conclusion of the second game of the doubleheader.
With the victory Saturday night, the magic number for LA Tech (31-18, 14-5 C-USA) to clinch the West Division title is one. Tech also maintained its slim lead over FIU for the No. 2 seed in the upcoming C-USA Tournament with the Lady Techsters and Panthers set to meet next week in Miami for the regular season finale series.
North Texas (24-25, 11-11) jumped out to an early 1-0 lead as senior shortstop Kelli Schkade led the game off with her ninth home run of the season, a solo shot over the left field wall against LA Tech starter Prelsee Gallaway.
Tech responded in the bottom of the second inning. Ali Galaz singled up the middle and then freshman catcher Marilyn Rizzato hit a two-run blast deep over the left field wall, her fifth of the year, giving the Lady Techsters a 2-1 lead. It was the first home run by Tech in the last 10 games.
However, Tech wasn’t done in the frame. Katie Smith then followed with a double down the left field line and after moving to third on an illegal pitch by North Texas starter Stacey Underwood, Smith scored on Karlee Jensen’s RBI single to right centerfield. Tech led 3-1.
Gallaway settled down until the fourth inning. With two outs, Gallaway walked Lindsey Gregory and then Nicole Ochotnicki doubled to left field, scoring Gregory and cutting the Tech lead to 3-2.
The Mean Green tied the game in the fifth inning as Hannah Gerecke led the frame off with a solo blast over the left centerfield wall.
Tech answered the run in the bottom of the fifth. Morgan Turkoly walked and advanced to third on a double by Pauline Tufi to right field. Galaz then lifted a fly ball to centerfield and Turkoly scored ahead of the throw home to give Tech a 4-3 advantage.
Jenny Chapman came on in relief of Gallaway in the sixth. However, Chapman walked a batter before inducing a double play ground ball to Smith at shortstop that cleared the bases. However, North Texas then got back-to-back singles with two outs. With runners on first and second and two outs, Ochotnicki hit a deep fly ball to centerfield that Tech centerfielder Tori Charters made a play at the top of the fence for the final out, saving two runs and keeping the 4-3 lead intact.
Tech added an insurance run in the sixth. Smith doubled and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Berkley Calapp. Jensen then hit a fly ball to centerfield, and Smith scored ahead of the throw home.
Krystal De La Cruz came on in the seventh and retired all three batters she faced, two via strikeout to pick up her second save of the season. Gallaway (14-11) got the win, allowing three runs on four hits and one walk while striking out four in 5.0 innings of action.
Offensively, Tech was led by Smith (2-2, 2 doubles, 2 runs), Rizzato (1-3, HR, run, 2 RBI), Jensen (1-1, 2 RBI), Turkoly (1-2, 2B, run), Tufi (1-3, 2B) and Galaz (1-2, run, RBI).