Kats make future statement

The SHSU softball squad finished 2-2 in the 2003 Southland Conference post-season tournament last weekend in with a 7-0 loss to Nicholls State in the semifinals. The Bearkats knocked out second seed Southwest Texas and fourth seed McNeese State and lost on a close seventh inning call at home plate to top seed Texas-Arlington.

Head softball coach Bob Brock said he was speechless following the tournament loss.

“It’s overwhelming, this is a team who at the last moment didn’t know if they were even going to the tournament,” he said.

The Bearkats secured their sixth position in the post-season with a win in their last series of the season over McNeese. The teams would meet again in the tournament.

“Never count anyone out,” Brock said. “I told the girls that sixth seed is good because you’re in there and everyone is 0-0 again. They took it from there.”

SHSU nearly upset No. 1 seed UTA in the first game of the tournament. The Bearkats tied the game 2-2 when freshman Sara Gatlin scored on a passed ball by UTA catcher Crystal Krebs.

A single up the middle by Krebs, brought Falon Kwansnick home to score the winning run 3-2. Brock protested with home-plate umpire Patti Gunst that Erin Lindsey tagged Kwasnick before she reached the plate.

“That call kept us from winning the game and it took that kind of situation for the other team to win,” Brock said. “But after that game our team felt like they could play with anyone in the tournament.

“When you walk off that field looking like you’ve been to war, then you’ve given it all,” he said of his team’s performance.

SHSU played its closest game with the Lady Mavericks who went on to win the tournament.

The Bearkats pulled the biggest upset of the tournament in the final game on Friday beating second seed Southwest Texas 2-1. The Bobcats made an early trip home.

“Beating Southwest Texas was the highlight of the year,” Brock said. “We knocked them out of the tournament in such a dramatic fashion with a two-run homerun.”

Gatlin scored the winning runs with a two-run home run in the bottom of the fourth inning. Erin Lindsey came home when Gatlin pulled a pitch that cleared the left-field fence.

SWT was held to four hits by the Bearkats and three hits in an upset by Nicholls State earlier in the day. Kristen Zaleski hit a leadoff homerun, but SHSU pitcher Aydrien Guajardo allowed only one hit after that.

Melissa Hayslip got the save pitching 2 2/3 innings.

“Playing two games like that in a row just perpetuated us and got us going,” Brock said. “The next day we didn’t play until four so we had an opportunity to recuperate.”

The Bearkats answered with a win over McNeese 7-5 in extra innings on Saturday. SHSU was behind 4-0 in the beginning of the game due to three Cowgirl homeruns.

SHSU scored the tying run that forced extra innings on an error by McNeese in the seventh. Gatlin singled and moved to second on a single by Paige Oberhammer. Sarah Sweeney singled and all three runners advanced after an error by shortstop Jessica Denham trying to pick off Gatlin at third.

Lindsey’s two-run single in the tenth brought home Brooke Hale and April Bardwell and clutched the win 7-5.

“We might not have started out strong, but that enthusiasm kicked in again and we won,” Brock said.

The loss eliminated McNeese, who also lost to Nicholls State 6-2 Saturday afternoon. UTA knocked out tournament host Northwestern State Saturday afternoon with a 4-0 victory.

The Bearkats’ season came to an end on Sunday in the semifinals against Nicholls State.

“It wasn’t that we didn’t play hard,” Brock said. “They were on a roll, too and we just couldn’t stop them form scoring.”

Holding SHSU to just three hits, the Colonels advanced to the championship game against UTA. The last time Nicholls State appeared in the SLC championship game was in 1998 when its team fell 7-5 to Northwestern State.

The Colonels opened up the second inning with a two run advantage. Lindsey Coleman singled to first and senior Duffie Matherne rocketed a two-run homerun over left centerfield.

With no outs and two scored runs, SHSU pitcher Whitney Heath was sent in to relieve Rachel Atzenhoffer.

Heath allowed three runs on three hits. Guajardo relieved in the fifth.

Nicholls State had a chance to end the game with two runners on third and second. Kristi Blanchard singled to first and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. She advanced to third on a wild pitch but left the game due to an injury sliding into third base. SHSU held the Colonels and ended the threat.

Nicholls State later extended the lead to seven when Stephanie Sasser scored on a single by Lindsay Coleman in the top of the sixth.

The Bearkats were unable to score despite chances throughout the game. The UTA Lady Mavs defeated Nicholls State in the championship game on Sunday 6-2 claiming its first ever SLC Tournament title. UTA pitcher Katy Cox was named the 2003 “Southland Conference Tournament Most Valuable Player”.

The Bearkats may not have brought home a ring or a trophy, but they have made a name for themselves and the university.

“No one thought SHSU would win one game,” Brock said. “This team is the beginning of a new Sam Houston softball program.

“We are excited about the future. I’m excited,” he said. “This looks good for the team and the university and it’s going to help in recruiting. We’re so close to Houston, where there are good softball players.”

SHSU finished 2-2 in its first appearance in the tournament since 1990. “This is only the beginning,” said Brock.

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