Northwestern State starter Mikayla Brown hung six consecutive scoreless innings in Saturday’s finale at Stephen F. Austin, but the Ladyjacks cobbled together enough runs in the first and last innings.
SFA’s Lindsay Gregory delivered a walk-off single in the eighth inning of a 3-2 Lady Demons’ loss as NSU fell in the series’ three games.
With the loss, NSU (24-24, 13-11 Southland Conference) remains seventh in the league standings although the Lady Demons did clinch a tournament spot with a pair of Houston Baptist losses Friday.
Brown (3-7) put together one of her best starts of the season Saturday with three runs on six hits in 7 1-3 innings.
“Brown got us out of a couple jams after a bad first inning, but she gave us a chance to win this game,” said NSU coach Donald Pickett said. “We had our opportunities, but we did play better today (Saturday) and had some bounce back.
“If we can play with this type of effort consistently, we can be a tough team going forward.”
Before Gregory’s eighth-inning single, Brown walked slugger Margarita Corona and allowed a one-out single to Alex Hedspeth.
SFA’s only other runs came on a Corona two-run home run in the first inning.
Each team stranded eight baserunners in a game where runs didn’t come easily.
Brown left SFA runners in scoring position in the third, fourth and sixth innings. She worked around a fifth-inning error in what would otherwise have been a perfect frame.
NSU freshman Alexis Perry supplied the offense with a solo home run in the fourth inning and a two-out double in the fifth inning to account for the Lady Demons’ runs.
Perry’s home run is her sixth this season and first in a month, although she’s batted nearly .400 in that stretch. The catcher went 2-for-4 with two RBIs.
Perry drove in E.C. Delafield in the fifth inning after Delafield was hit by an Ashley Kriesel pitch.
Perry has been the consistent four-hole hitter, but NSU drastically changed its lineup with Kaitlyn St. Clair missing the finale because of injury.
Elise Vincent (1-for-3) led off for the first time this season, and Delafield jumped into the No. 3 hole. Codi Vernace started for the first time in a month, delivering two hits in the No. 7 hole among other changes.
“The shake up did help today, and we did some different things to get people on,” Pickett said. “We hit some balls on the screws right at people, we just couldn’t get some of those to fall.
“We outhit them (8-6) with some of our hotter bats higher in the lineup, but we just have to be more consistent.”
SFA reliever Kassidy Wilbur (19-11) picked up the win with one hit in three scoreless innings.
NSU shortstop Maggie Black singled in the seventh inning off Wilbur, but the SFA freshman induced two fly outs with two runners aboard.
Emma Hawthorne smashed a ball to the warning track in the eighth inning for a loud out after extending her hitting streak to eight games with a fourth-inning single.
The starter Kriesel allowed two runs on seven hits in five innings in the no-decision.
Saturday’s loss is just NSU’s second in extra-innings this season. NSU also lost to Nevada, while topping Southeastern, Sam Houston State and McNeese in extra time.
NSU plays its last five regular season contests at home starting with a Tuesday doubleheader against Prairie View A&M and the final SLC series against Central Arkansas.
The Lady Demons will host the SLC Tournament at Lady Demon Diamond from May 7-10.
NSU is all but out of contention for a top four seed and a tournament bye, which means the Lady Demons will likely play in a single-elimination game as a No. 5-8 seed.