Hoover's double saves Wildcats from doubleheader sweep

ABILENE, Texas - Wow. What a difference one ball game can make.

After being done in by mental errors, physical miscues and aggressive base running by Lamar in game one, the Abilene Christian softball team rallied from a run down in the seventh inning of game two to beat the Cardinals, 3-2, on a one-out double to left by Cara Hoover. 

Saturday's twin bill split at Poly Wells Field leaves the Wildcats at 17-21 (6-4 Southland) heading into tomorrow's 1 p.m. rubber game, while second-place Lamar stands at 18-16 (11-5 Southland).

Cardinals' game two starter Shannon Millman (7-8) was cruising with a 2-0 lead as she was perfect against the Wildcats until senior center fielder Madison Buckley legged out an infield single to short with two outs in the fourth. That hit was then followed by senior catcher Lyndi Smith's RBI triple to left center that crashed off one of the fence posts and back toward the infield.

Lamar and Millman would carry this 2-1 lead into the seventh, during which things finally started to fall in the Wildcats' favor. Smith led off the frame with a single to right that the wind pushed over the glove of second baseman Brynn Baca. Courtney Flanary then went to bunt pinch runner Ashley Nolan to second, but ended up on second base after first baseman Ashley McDowell dove and missed, thus deflecting the ball it into foul territory.

A walk to Ashley Jones by Millman loaded the bases, but the Wildcats couldn't get the tying run across on Demi McNulty's ground ball to short that resulted in a 6-2 putout.

That brought pinch hitter Hoover to the plate, and on a 1-2 delivery, she drilled a double over the head of left fielder Jenna Hollana, who moved in a little bit to prevent a sacrifice fly.

Scoring on the hit were Jones and Flanary's pinch runner, Jacquelyn Perez.

Hoover's two bagger - her third of the year - also made a winner out of freshman Hannah Null (11-7), who punched out four and scattered two hits in delivering her 12th complete game of the season.

Millman, meanwhile, finished her fine effort with 10 strikeouts and just one base on balls.

In game one's 11-4 loss, it could be argued ACU beat up itself as much as the Cardinals did as it finished with four errors, four wild pitches and countless mental missteps. But give Lamar credit as its combative tone in the early frames created some stumbling blocks for the young Wildcats.

Despite being ahead 4-2 going into the top of the fourth, thanks to Smith's eighth home run of the spring, ACU lost its lead (and poise) during a six-run inning for the Cardinals that essentially clinched the game.

Starting pitcher Tina Schulz led off with a routine single, and after an out was made a third base, it appeared ACU first baseman Kyla Simmons made out No. 2 after diving forward to catch a tipped ball off the bat of Julianne Viator. But home plate umpire Carroll Abbey ruled the ball rolled out of her mitt and touched the ground.

With that second wind at her back, Viator became the first of four Cardinals to reach base as she lashed a double to the left-center gap for one of her three hits. Jenna Holland's  bunt back to the circle then loaded the bases for Lamar as pitcher Emily Seidel (2-5) had no play to make after fielding the ball.

Viator would tie the game at 4-4, scoring on a wild pitch, then Shannon Sain and Stephanie Meeuwsen followed with back-to-back run scoring singles. And with two outs, center fielder Candyce Carter rocked a three-run home run over the wall in left that pushed Lamar's lead to 8-4. 

Lamar added three more runs in the sixth as Seidel and reliever Peyton Mosley combined to give up three walks and three hits.

ACU's rally attempts in the sixth and seventh both came up short. The Wildcats put their first three runners on base in the sixth against Schulz (8-8), but only got one runner home on Nolan's double.

In the seventh, ACU stranded Flanary at second base after she moved up on Smith's sacrifice fly ball to left field that plated freshman Taylor Brown.

Information for this story provided by Hardin-Simmons Athletics.

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