There haven't been many games pitched during the 18 years of Abilene Christian softball better than one witnessed Tuesday at Poly Wells Field. And of the ones that were, it's likely that none were as equally fascinating and frustrating to watch.
But that was the case on this beautiful, sunny afternoon in the Big Country as Hardin-Simmons (13-10) used a two-run home run early in the game to beat the Wildcats, 2-1, and thus spoiled a record-breaking 17-strikeout performance by star freshman .
For the better part of 90 minutes, Null (7-6)tossed one the most efficient and dominating games in the school's history. The Highland Village, Texas, native and 2013 graduate of Marcus High School fanned two batters in five innings, struck out the side in the second, and eclipsed Jennifer Leal's eight-year old school record in the seventh with a rare four-strikeout inning as No. 6 batter Sarah Truelove led off by reaching on a dropped third strike.
Lauren Williams, who blasted the aforementioned game-winning home run in the second inning, followed Truelove to the plate in becoming Null's 15th strikeout victim. Designated player Carol Swindell then went down swinging as Null tied Leal's mark from a 2006 game vs. New Mexico Highlands.
And for the record-breaking 17th strikeout, right fielder Katelyn Joyner swung and missed on all three pitches she saw. Joyner and Swindell struck out in all three of their at-bats, while Williams and three others each were punched out twice.
Third baseman Carley Willis was the only Cowgirl not to strikeout vs. Null as she grounded out, flew out and was hit by a pitch in the fourth inning.
Null's strikeout total also is the highest by any single Southland Conference pitcher this season as she easily surpassed the dozen Ks recorded by Central Arkansas' Kylee Studioso and Stephen F. Austin's Carlie Thomas.
Unfortunately, ACU's offense discovered Hardin-Simmons' Emily Hardaway (4-5) to be equally unhittable as she scattered two hits and three walks in her complete game victory.
The Wildcats left runners at the corners in the first inning and didn't record their first hit until the fourth when senior slapped a one-out double down the left-field line that nearly pegged the third-base umpire, who deferred to the home plate umpire for the fair-or-foul call after jumping out of the way.
Smith would score on the next play thanks to the first of two errors made by shortstop Braleigh Middleton. But the Wildcats wouldn't capitalize further as the next two batters grounded out and fouled out to third base.
Hardaway didn't allow a single hit over the final 3.0 innings and the only baserunner to reach during this time was pinch hitter Kayla Simmons on a two-out walk in the seventh.
Hardaway recorded just two strikeouts, but got 17 ground balls and two fly outs. And of those 17 ground balls, five were tapped back to her in the circle.
ACU (11-18) continued to receive great pitching in game two as senior (3-9) and junior combined on a three-hitter as the Wildcats captured the night cap, 5-1.
Mosley gave up all three hits plus two walks over 4.0 innings of work, but was able to escape a couple jams with runners in scoring position in the second and third innings.
With two on and two out in the second, Mosley got Joyner to end the inning on infield pop up, and after an error by the Wildcats' shortstop allowed an unearned run to score in the third, Mosley fielded a comebacker for a routine 1-3 putout.
Mosley, who today won her 25th career game, induced three more ground balls in the fourth before turning the contest over to Seidel, who was coming off a shutout victory Sunday at Incarnate Word.
In earning her first save of the year, Seidel struck out six batters and helped complete a great play at home plate as she tagged out Truelove trying to score on a wild pitch for the third out of the fifth inning.
The offense rebounded in game two with nine hits, including a solo home run by Smith in the fifth inning that was her seventh of the year. Smith also had a first-inning RBI single in finishing 2-for-3.
and had RBI hits in the second that made it a 3-0 game for the Wildcats. Smith's round-tripper pushed their lead to 4-1 and a bunt double (yes, a bunt double) by in the sixth scored for the game's final run.
Jones was attempting to bunt Crozier to third, but as luck would have it, the ball rolled to the right of the circle past the pitcher and first baseman, and well out of the reach of the second baseman, who was moving toward first. And with no one covering the second base bag, Jones took off and slid in ahead of a tag applied by the late-arriving first baseman Kara LeLeux.
The Wildcats return to action Saturday for the start of a three-game series against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi of the Southland Conference. Game times are 2 p.m. Saturday (DH) and 1 p.m
Hardin-Simmons' softball team continues its run of good play with a doubleheader split against crosstown and Division I rival Abilene Christian, winning 2-1 in the first game before falling 5-1 in the nightcap, on Tuesday afternoon at Poly Wells Field.
Freshman catcher Lauren Williams hit a two-run home run in the second inning and that was all freshman hurler Emily Hardaway needed as she limited the Wildcats to one unearned on two hits in the complete-game win.
Williams cranked a 3-2 pitch over the left-center field fence to score Kara LeLeux who had walked.
Freshman Braleigh Middleton had the only other hit for the Cowgirls as ACU freshman hurler Hannah Null had a great performance in the loss. She struck out an ACU record 17 batters in the game and allowed just two hits to fall to 7-6.
The Wildcats scored their only run in the fourth inning when Lyndi Smith doubled just inside the line at third. Middleton, who was slick with the glove all day at shortstop, then had back-to-back errors to allow a run to come home.
Hardaway (4-5) worked out of the jam and allowed only two base runners the rest of the game. She kept the Wildcats off balance with 17 ground-ball outs in the game.
ACU's offense came to life a little bit in the second game with nine hits and five runs. The Wildcats scored a run in the first on a Smith RBI single and scored twice in the second inning. Demi McNulty and Paige Stevens had run-scoring hits in the inning.
The Cowgirls' only run in the game came in the third when Sarah Truelove doubled to left center and moved to third on a groundout and then scored on a dropped fly ball.
Smith had a solo home run in the fifth and Anna Jones had a perfectly placed bunt that turned into a double when the defense had moved leaving a big hole up the middle in the sixth.
Keeley Lowrance took the loss allowing three earned runs in six innings to fall to 7-3. All three of HSU's hits were doubles with Truelove having two and Middleton the other.
Paige Mosley earned the win with four innings of one unearned run ball and Emily Seidel earned the rare three-inning save. Smith and Brown had two hits each for ACU.
HSU hosts Sul Ross State for a doubleheader on Friday in its next action.
Information for this story provided by ACU & HSU Athletics.