CONWAY, Ark. – Emily Bounds' RBI single scored Codi Carpenter with two outs in the bottom of the seventh capped a final-inning rally and gave the Sam Houston State Bearkats a walk-off win, 3-2, over Central Arkansas in the opening round of the Southland Conference Tournament at Farris Field.
The Kats (24-25), who entered the event as the No. 4 seed, left 11 runners on base but got the runs when it counted to move on to face McNeese on Wednesday night. They needed it after Central Arkansas (24-33) plated a pair of runs with two outs in the top of the seventh to surge ahead 2-1 and put itself on the verge of advancement.
Four Kats picked up a pair of hits, including Bounds, as part of an 11-hit attack against all-conference pitcher Kayla Gomness who fell to 16-17 on the year with the loss. Tayler Atkinson got the start for Sam Houston and went 5.0 shutout innings before giving way to Lindsey McLeod in the sixth. McLeod picked up the win to move to 12-7 despite allowing the go-ahead runs in the top of the seventh.
The win moves the Bearkats on to take on top-seeded McNeese on Wednesday evening at 6:30 p.m. A win over the Cowgirls would push the Kats into a tournament semifinal appearance on Thursday at 3 p.m., while a loss would drop them into an elimination game against No. 6 Northwestern State at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday.
The Kats left a runner on third in the opening frame and then put together another threat an inning later. A single by Carpenter opened the inning and two batters later Ashley Goetz doubled off the left-field fence to put a pair of runners in scoring position with one away. But Gomness was able to get a ground out of Bounds before loading the sacks with a walk to Samantha Belongia. The Kats could not manage any two-out damage, though, as leadoff hitter Megan McDonald grounded out to second base to end the threat.
Sam Houston left five more runners on over the next three frames and the Bears had a golden opportunity to take the lead in their half of the sixth. An infield single by Briana Whisenhunt opened the inning and she swiped her 33rd base of the season on the very next pitch. She moved to third on a grounder before Bearkat reliever Lindsey McLeod recorded a strikeout of Cylla Hill before getting Ryan Holdiness to fly out to keep UCA off the board.
The next half inning finally saw the Kats get a run across when McDonald beat out a fielder's choice to score Goetz and give Sam Houston a lead. Goetz opened the inning by getting on via a UCA error and moved up to third on a sacrifice bunt and a single by pinch hitter Kaitlynn Dawson. McDonald then grounded one to second base, but the Bears could not record an out as Goetz scored to put Sam Houston up 1-0.
But Central Arkansas had an answer in its final at-bat, and despite being down to their final strike, pushed across a pair to take its first lead of the day. A one-out double from Kate Myers gave UCA a threat and they put another on base with two away when Aubrey Pratt was hit by a pitch. McLeod then had a 1-2 count on Hannah Stirton before the UCA left fielder lined a double to the fence in the right-center field gap, scoring both runs.
It did not take long for the Bearkats to put together a threat as Carpenter followed a leadoff single by Hannah Marino with a double into the right-field corner, giving the Kats runners at second and third with nobody out. Megan Crosby then knotted it up at 2-2 with a sacrifice fly to score pinch runner Katie Andrie. That set it up for Bounds two batters later as she lined one between shortstop and third base and beat the throw as Carpenter crossed home plate with the winning run.