UCA softball wins

FORT COLLINS, Colo. – Keeping in line with the theme of late-inning drama, the Central Arkansas softball team held on for a 5-3 win over the National Softball Invitational Championship’s No. 1 Seed Virginia on Tuesday. After taking a lead midway through the game, the Bears regained composure long enough to close out the deal in the seventh.

The win improves Central Arkansas’ record to 37-20, matching last year’s win total and drawing within one win of the school’s record of 38 victories.

Morgan Nelson had a big day at the plate, blasting her 11th home run of the season in the fourth inning. Kristen Whitehouse got in on the long-ball fun with a two-run shot of her own shortly after Nelson’s, her third of the year. Kayla Beaver matched her win total from last season, notching her 21st win after tossing 6.1 innings, striking out seven while allowing three runs.

Chase Becvar photo

Virginia, entering the game as the NISC’s top team, put the first run on the board with a solo home run in the second inning. Though the damage was minimal, it was enough to give the Cavaliers a lead that they would hold for until the fourth inning.

As the batting order started coming around the second time, Central Arkansas’ hitters made adjustments and it paid off. Mary Kate led off with a single up the middle to establish an early baserunner for the Bears. A couple of at bats later, Nelson fouled off a few pitches before obliterating a 1-2 pitch out beyond center field to take a 2-1 lead over the Cavs. Up next, Reagan Sperling got aboard with a single, moving over to second on a sacrifice bunt. Batting at the eight-spot, Whitehouse added to the lead with a towering hit that cleared the mountains in left field, taking the lead to 4-1.

Not quite done there, the Bears added another in the top of the fifth inning. Tremere Harris started off with a single, moving to second and then third on back-to-back ground outs. Finally, with two outs, Nelson added her third RBI of the game with a single through the left side that allowed Harris to speed home, improving the lead to 5-1 and putting a lot of pressure on the Cavaliers.

The score held into the bottom of the seventh, where Virginia would attempt to mount a comeback. A fielding error, a single and a walk loaded the bases with just one out. Cavaliers’ catcher Leah Boggs tapped a single into the outfield to bring two runners in, cutting the lead to 5-3 with runners on first and second. Making a pitching change, Jordan Johnson came in to clean up. She struck out the first batter on a 2-2 strike, putting the Bears one out away from a win. Allowing a single on the next at bat, Johnson battled with her third batter to a full count before getting her to chase on a screwball to end the game.

Johnson logged her fourth save of the year with the effort, setting a Central Arkansas single-season record. Nelson recorded her ninth game with multiple RBI and her fourth with three runs driven in.