Bears survive elimination, advance in SLC Tourney

A two-run home run Thursday kept the University of Central Arkansas’ softball season alive for at least one more game.

 

In the bottom of the sixth, faced with a full count, a runner on first base and down by two runs, UCA freshman Lauren Brooks hit her first home run of the season.

The Bear made the two runs stand up in the sixth for a 2-1 victory at Farris Field.

“It was huge,” UCA coach David Kuhn said. “We expected that it (her home run) would come sooner or later and it came at a perfect time.”

The homer came one inning after Kuhn felt he made a mistake, where he sent senior Hannah Stirton home on a double by senior Briana Whisenhunt.

The relay throws cut Stirton down at home, resulting in the second out of the inning instead of having runners at second and third with one out.

“I ran us out of that one inning, sending the runner,” he said. “I thought that hurt us.”

The Bears’ senior starter Kayla Gomness ran into trouble in the next half inning when two Cardinals reached scoring position.

Gomness forced freshman Elizabeth Castillo to ground out, ending the inning and the scoring threat.

In the seventh inning, Lamar threatened to tie the game when it had two batters reach base before Hannah Stirton made an over-the-shoulder catch at the left field fence, Stirton, which kept the runners at first and second.

“That catch Hannah made was a game-changer,” Kuhn said.

The next two Lady Cardinal batters flied out and grounded out, ending the game and their season.

Kuhn said the Bears won because they succeeded in the fundamentals.

“The defense made plays, we had good starting pitching and timely hitting,” he said. “It’s so cliché, but that’s what it comes down to in postseason.”

Lamar got its lone run in the first inning when senior Ashley McDowell took advantage of junior Sable Hankins’ steal attempt and safely ran home.

Kuhn said he was proud of the way UCA answered from a “heartbreaker” from Wednesday and with its back against a wall.

“I like it,” he said. “It’s kind of the way our season has gone all year. We’ve played a lot of close games and won a lot of close ones and lost a lot of close ones. We just have to not get to high or down and just plugging along.”

UCA’s losers bracket game against Northwestern State, which eliminated Sam Houston State on Thursday, has been postponed until 11 a.m. Friday because of inclement weather.

 

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