The Southern Utah University softball team fought hard, earning one win in a three-game series versus Stephen F. Austin State University at Kathryn Berg Field. The Thunderbirds are now 5-19 overall on the season and 2-7 in Western Athletic Conference play.
Stellar defense from both teams held the first inning 0-0. The Lumberjacks responded in the top of the second inning, scoring three runs. Junior Mallory Webb hit a single that brought senior Mikaelah Burkland in to score. Shortstop Camryn Middlebrook followed with a hit, bringing two more runs home.
Southern Utah tried to answer back with a lead-off double from freshman Riley Nielson. After the double, no Thunderbirds got on base, and SFA led 3-0 at the end of the second.
The Lumberjacks showed their offensive power, scoring nine combined runs in the fourth and fifth innings. SUU could not match the deficit inflicted by SFA and were mercy-ruled 12-0 in the fifth inning. SFA starting pitcher Brooke Gainous earned her fourth shutout of the season and pitched her sixth complete game.
The Lumberjacks scored four runs in the top of the first and led 4-0 at the conclusion of the first inning. SFA scored one more run in the second inning. Southern Utah joined the scoring party with three runs in the bottom of the second. Freshman Alayah Toscano hit a one-out triple, and catcher Amyah Boostedt hit an RBI double that brought Toscano home. Crucial hits from junior Shelby Basso, fellow junior Miranda Lopez and sophomore Sophia Masut brought the other two runs home. SFA led 5-3.
Both teams scored one run in the third inning, and the Lumberjacks were 6-4 entering the fourth. Southern Utah took the lead in the bottom of the fourth with a three-run home run from sophomore Jayne Sepulveda. SUU gained a 7-6 lead going into the fifth inning. The Thunderbirds shut out SFA in the top of the fifth and added an insurance run from Basso that allowed Nielson to score.
The Thunderbirds had the momentum until they didn’t. The Lumberjacks capitalized on a Thunderbird error and scored two runs in the top of the sixth, tying the game 8-8. SUU scored two runs in the bottom of the sixth. Nielson hit a sacrifice fly ball and brought a run home. Toscano followed up with a single. Sepulveda took advantage and scored, giving SUU a 10-8 lead. Redshirt senior Payton Goodrich kept SFA out of the scoring column in the top of the seventh, and the Thunderbirds won 10-8.
The final game of the series was a showcase of power from the Lumberjacks. Sophomore Lexi Benson hit a two-run home run, putting SFA on the board early. Southern Utah responded with a run of their own in the bottom of the first. Freshman Emily Gonzalez hit a single, and Sepulveda scored. The Lumberjacks led 2-1.
Stephen F. Austin went on to score 12 runs in the next two innings compared to one run from the Thunderbirds. SUU scored two runs in the fifth inning, but it was not enough. SFA won 14-4 by mercy rule. Gainous pitched another amazing game, allowing four hits and earning three strikeouts.
The Thunderbirds will be back at home to play the Lancers of California Baptist University. Two games of the series will be played on Friday, April 7, while the final game will be on Saturday, April 8. The series will be held at Kathryn Berg Field.
Story by Anthony Colasuono
Photos courtesy of SUU Athletics