HUNTSVILLE – The Sam Houston State Bearkats’ bats came alive and the pitching was just as good in sweeping a series-opening doubleheader from Central Arkansas on Friday at the Bearkat Softball Complex.
Megan Crosby drove in five runs in the first game and Tayler Atkinson was one out from a five-inning no-hitter as the Kats (14-15, 5-3 SLC) exploded for multiple runs in every inning against the Bears (11-22, 2-6 SLC), including a five-run second that opened it up early in what ended in a 13-0 final.
In Game 2, Hannah Marino delivered a go-ahead grand slam in the bottom of the third and Lindsey McLeod made that hold up with a complete-game shutout. The sophomore hurler allowed just one hit in seven-inning effort, tying her career high with 11 strikeouts in a 4-0 victory.
Sam Houston will go for the sweep of the Bears on Saturday afternoon in the series finale. First pitch is set for 3 p.m. at the Bearkat Softball Complex.
Game 1 – Box Score
Sam Houston 13, Central Arkansas 0 (5 innings)
The Bearkats pounded out a dozen hits and Crosby went 2-for-2 with five RBI and a home run as Sam Houston needed just five frames to take the opener, 13-0.
Crosby was one of four Bearkats with at least two hits for the game, and both Tori Koerselman and Tiffany Thompson combined for five RBI of their own. But it was not just the offense that had things going, but also Atkinson.
The senior allowed just two base runners in 5.0 innings of work, striking out four to move to 6-9 on the year. She was just one out away from closing the 24th no-hitter in school history before Bailey Reynolds lined a sure single to right field with two outs in the fifth.
Sam Houston wasted no time in jumping out in front, getting two runs off of UCA starter Kayla Gomness in its first trip to the plate. Gomness was one out away from getting out of the inning despite hitting Thompson with a pitch just two hitters into the inning. But Codi Carpenter drew a two-out walk to extend the inning and Crosby followed by blasting a two-run double off the left-field wall.
A single by Emily Bounds and a UCA error put two Bearkats on base to start the bottom of the second, and Thompson made it a 3-0 lead two batters later with an RBI single to center field. The inning looked to be at a conclusion on a grounder from Carpenter, but the Bears booted the play at first base, allowing Carpenter to reach and Ashley Kopps to cross home. One batter later Crosby put an exclamation on the inning, and her at-bat, by launching the 11th pitch she saw out to left field for a three-run homer that extended the lead to 7-0.
Kopps and Megan McDonald got things going for Sam Houston in the third with consecutive singles and Koerselman made it an 8-0 game with a double into the right-center field gap. The Kats got one more across on a wild pitch, making it a 9-0 game headed to the fourth.
Each of the first three Bearkats of the fourth managed to reach base, forcing the second UCA pitching change of the day. McDonald picked up an RBI with a sacrifice fly. Two batters later Koerselman deposited a single into left field that plated two more, and Thompson capped the scoring with a line-drive double to left that scored Kopps.
Game 2 – Box Score
Sam Houston 4, Central Arkansas 0
The offense did not come quite as easily in the nightcap, but Sam Houston was still able to bunch together four of their five hits into the bottom of the third and used Marino’s big swing to power past UCA, 4-0.
That third-inning surge was plenty for McLeod, who was stellar in the circle from the beginning. She struck out the side in the first and sat down five of the first six Bears she faced on strikes on her way to tying her career best with 11 strikeouts for the game.
The Bears managed just one hit for the game on a leadoff double from Briana Whisenhunt in the fourth, and could not take advantage of any of the four free passes issued by McLeod who moved to 5-3 on the season with the victory.
After UCA starter Payton Herman retired the leadoff hitter, Kopps beat out an infield single to get the Bearkat offense going. A catcher’s interference call allowed Koerselman to reach base one batter later and after Thompson reached on an infield single of her own, the bases are loaded for Marino. The Sam Houston slugger then lined an 0-1 pitch out to left field to clear the sacks and give the Kats the only runs they would need for the game.
The Bears finally got something going in the next half inning, starting with Whisenhunt’s double to open the frame. Cylla Hill followed two batters later with a walk, giving UCA something to work with. But McLeod responded well, following the walk with consecutive strikeouts of Ryan Holdiness and Kate Myers to leave both stranded.