CONWAY, Ark. – The Sam Houston State Bearkats had the bases loaded with nobody out in the top of the seventh, but its final-inning rally fell short as the Northwestern State Demons eliminated the Kats from the Southland Conference Tournament with a 4-1 win at Farris Field.
The Kats (24-27) could not solve the riddle of Lady Demon (23-32-1) starter Mikayla Brown, who retired 17 of the first 18 hitters she faced before Sam Houston's attempt at a rally in the seventh. She got a run of support in both the first and second, and two big insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth and finished with four strikeouts on her way to earning her 15th win of the season.
Meanwhile, Sam Houston got a strong start from senior Tayler Atkinson in her final start in a Bearkat uniform. She struck out three in five innings and allowed six hits, keeping the Kats in the game, before taking the loss on her record.
Still, the Kats stayed within striking distance and bunched three of their four hits into the seventh. The first four hitters of the inning reached, including an RBI single from senior Hannah Marino, but Brown was able to retire each of the next three hitters to leave the bases loaded.
The win advances the Lady Demons in the Southland Conference Tournament where they will face Central Arkansas in another elimination game later Thursday evening.
Northwestern State was able to take advantage of a leadoff walk to stake themselves to an early lead in their first trip to the plate. Sidney Salmans opened the inning with the free pass, but it was a Bearkat error on an attempted sacrifice bunt that complicated the inning, putting runners on the corners with nobody out. That set the table for Kellye Kincannon who lined a sacrifice fly to right field to score Salmans and give the Lady Demons the lead.
Brittany Jones made it a 2-0 game when she launched a 2-0 pitch from Atkinson out for a leadoff homer to open up the bottom of the second. Northwestern State then threatened to add on, getting runners on second and third with a pair of two-out singles by Hayley Barbazon and Salmans before Atkinson got Hailee Rhodes to ground out to third.
The Lady Demons added to their lead in the sixth, an inning that got started with a one-out double from Jones. Kaylee Isenburg followed with a single and two batters later Barbazon provided some insurance, driving in two with a single off of reliever Lindsey McLeod to give Brown a 4-0 lead going into the final inning.
Despite only having one base runner in the first six frames, the Bearkats made things interesting with their final three outs. Each of the first four hitters of the inning managed to reach base, starting with Tiffany Thompson reaching on the first fielding error of the day by Northwestern State. That was followed by three straight singles from Tori Koerselman, Marino and Codi Carpenter with Marino's bringing in Thompson for the first Sam Houston run and Carpenter's loading the bases with nobody out.
However, Crosby followed with a line drive that ricocheted off of Brown and allowed the Demons to record the first out at the plate. Brown then got Ashley Goetz to fly out to center field before striking out Emily Bounds to end the game and leave the bases loaded.
Koerselman finished with a .385 average for 2017, tying her with Lauren Boone's 2004 season as the sixth-best single season average in program history.