CONWAY, Ark. – The top-seeded McNeese Cowgirls struck for five runs in the first inning and picked up a 9-1 win in five innings over the Sam Houston State Bearkats in the second round of the Southland Conference Tournament on Wednesday at Farris Field.
McNeese (40-16) scored eight unanswered runs to open the game got a complete game from SLC Pitcher of the Year Rachel Smith, who moved to 16-7 on the season. The Kats (24-26) sent three pitchers to the circle with Lindsey McLeod taking the loss after allowing seven runs in just 1.1 innings. Jordan Franks also allowed one run in an inning of work before giving way to Casey Kauder, who struck out a pair in two innings of relief.
Offensively the Bearkats got a 2-for-2 game from Tori Koerselman, who also scored the lone Sma Houston run on an RBI single from Megan Crosby in the top of the fourth. The Cowgirls turned in 11 hits for the game and were able to take advantage of a pair of Sam Houston errors and three free passes.
The loss drops the Bearkats into an elimination game on Thursday where they will face No. 6 Northwestern State at 12:30 p.m. A win would move them into a 5:30 p.m. elimination game against the winner of No. 5 Central Arkansas and No. 3 Lamar.
Sam Houston got a single in the first from Koerselman, but could not put anything on the board. The Cowgirls then went to work in the bottom half of the inning, putting their first four hitters on base and batting around on their way to a five-run inning. A bunt single by Justyce McClain was followed by a Bearkat error and then a walk to SLC Player of the Year Erika Piancastelli to load the bases with nobody out. Morgan Catron then picked up a pair of RBI, making it a 2-0 game by roping a single into left field. Two batters later Tori Yanitor doubled the lead, scoring two more with a double off the fence in left-center field. The Cowgirls would add another on a sacrifice fly from Aubree Tuberville two batters after Yanitor's double.
McNeese added on an inning later with McClain opening it up once again with a single. Two batters later she came around to score and make it a 6-0 advantage on a double to left field by Piancastelli. She then advanced to third on a grounder and scored with Hailey Drew at the plate, stealing home plate to up the lead to 7-0.
The Cowgirls put one more on the board in the third with an RBI single from Carleigh Chaumont with one out. McNeese then loaded the bases, but Kauder came in and put out the fire, getting Alexandria Saldivar to pop out before putting Piancastelli down on strikes to end the frame.
Sam Houston finally got on the board in the top of the fourth, cutting the Cowgirl lead to 8-1. Singles from Koerselman and Hannah Marino opened the frame, and Crosby picked up an RBI, scoring Koerselman with a single to left before a double play got McNeese out of the inning.
McNeese came back in the fifth and got the run they needed to bring the game to an abbreviated end. A double from Taylor Schmidt opened up the inning and she found herself on third after a wild pitch to pinch hitter Baylee Corbello. Tiffany Thompson made sure she did not score as she fired home on a grounder to get Schmidt at the plate, but the second Bearkat error of the game came two batters later, allowing Corbello to score the winning run.