The Southern Utah University softball team dropped a three-game series to Abilene Christian University. Southern Utah falls to 4-17 overall on the season and 1-5 in Western Athletic Conference play.
Sophomore Keimon Winston got the nod from head coach Don Don Williams. The first and second innings were a defensive showcase between the two teams, neither team allowing a hit to start the game.
Southern Utah remained hitless in the top of third. The Wildcats responded, scoring the first run of the game off errors from the Thunderbirds. Freshman Sammie Shelander hit the ball into left field and brought a run home in the process. ACU led 1-0 at the end of the third inning.
Both teams failed to score in the fourth inning. The Thunderbirds mustered a little bit of offense in the top of the fifth, but it was to no avail and the Wildcats held SUU to no runs. Abilene Chrisitan added another run to make it a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the fifth inning.
The sixth inning brought no runs, and ACU held onto their 2-0 lead. In the top of the seventh, Southern Utah either had to tie or take the lead to advance the game. Freshman Emily Gonzalez hit a single down the middle of the field to get on base. Coach Williams decided to pinch hit freshman Riley Nielson for senior Madison Sanders. The decision paid off, and Nielson hit a home run to tie the game 2-2. Juniors Bella Garcia and Shelby Basso struck out and ended the inning.
Sophomore Logan Gaspar hit a double to start the final frame and proceeded to third base on a passed ball. Senior Mercedes Eichelberger hit the dagger and brought Gaspar home for the walk-off run. Abilene Christian won 3-2.
After the heartbreak of the first game, Nielsen started on the mound. The first and second innings were a repeat of the first game with no runs on the scoreboard. Southern Utah took charge in the third inning to score three runs. Crucial hits from Nielson, Sanders, sophomore Amyah Boostedt and junior Allie Laub brought the Thunderbirds an early 3-0 lead.
The Thunderbirds kept control until the bottom of the fourth. The Wildcats with a flurry of hits brought home four runs to take a 4-3 lead. Southern Utah taking advantage of a huge throwing error by the Wildcats resulted in Sanders stealing second and third base. She then managed to steal home and score, tying the game at 4-4.
Abilene Christian took the lead back in the bottom of the fifth with junior Avery Miloch hitting a home run past the left field wall. ACU led 5-4 heading toward the sixth inning.
The Thunderbirds were close to tying the game with sophomore Jayne Sepulveda at third base. ACU shutdown the Southern Utah offense, protecting the 5-4 lead. SUU kept ACU off the board in the bottom of the sixth.
SUU walked into the top of the seventh looking to repeat their late game heroics, but sadly, it didn’t happen. The Wildcats shut down the Thunderbirds, getting three straight outs and winning 5-4.
The Wildcats controlled the last game of the series, scoring three runs in the first inning. ACU led 3-0 and kept the Thunderbirds off the scoreboard until the top of the fifth inning when Sepulveda hit a solo home run, cutting the lead to two.
The Wildcats returned the favor, scoring two runs in the bottom of the fifth and extending the lead to 5-1. That confirmed the win for ACU since the Thunderbirds could not respond.
The Thunderbirds will be back at home to play the Lumberjacks of Stephen F. Austin State University. Two games of the series will be played on Friday, March 31, and the final game will be played on Saturday, April 1. The series will be held at Kathryn Berg Field.
Story by Anthony Colasuono
Photos courtesy of SUU Athletics