SOFTBALL: No. 2 Louisiana College sweeps YellowJackets
LONGVIEW – And now the challenge begins for the LeTourneau softball team.
After jumping out to its best start in team history with nine wins in 12 games, the YellowJackets opened American Southwest Conference East Division play Thursday and were swept by nationally-ranked Louisiana College.
The Lady Wildcats (11-1), ranked No. 2 in the nation by the American Fastpitch Coaches Association, defeated LeTourneau by scores of 7-0 and 6-2.
Louisiana College senior Rene Schwartzenburg pitched a complete-game shutout in the opener, striking out 12 batters over seven innings. Teammates Brittany Menard and Amber Thomas drove in two runs apiece for the Lady Wildcats.
The Jackets mustered only three hits in Thursday's opener. Nos. 3 and 4 hitters Kali Behrens and Christin Mickelboro knocked hits in the fourth inning as the Jackets put runners on first and third, but Schwartzenburg got out of the inning with her then 5-0 lead intact.
The two teams were locked a tight struggle until the top of the sixth inning in game two of the doubleheader, when cleanup hitter Thomas belted a grand slam to deep left centerfield with one out to give the Cats a 5-2 lead.
Whitehead and McPhail were involved in the Jackets' go-ahead run in the bottom of the fifth inning. With two outs and two on, LC pitcher Kelly Williams appeared to have gotten out of the inning when Whitehead knocked a grounder right to her. However, Williams misplayed the ball and her subsequent throw to first couldn't beat Whitehead and allowed McPhail to score.
But the LeTourneau lead was not to last, as three of the first four Wildcat batters reached base safely before Thomas' slam.
LeTourneau pitcher Kelsie Mercer-Stephenson (6-3) started both games for the YellowJackets.
The Jackets were one of six East Division teams to win at least three games at last weekend's ASC First Pitch tournament. Louisiana College won all four games against West Division foes and has won 31 consecutive games at the event.
The East Division, which won 23 of the 28 games played at last weekend's event, currently has three teams – LC, No. 12 East Texas Baptist and No. 16 UT-Tyler – ranked in the AFCA's Division III Top 25 poll.
The Jackets and Wildcats will conclude their season series next week when LeTourneau visits Louisiana College for a Tuesday doubleheader. First game in Pineville, La. is scheduled for 4 p.m.