TWU was bound to lose at home eventually. Abilene Christian nearly put the first blemish on its home record Friday, but the No. 10 Pioneers came up with a two-run rally in the bottom of the seventh to take the first game of a three-game series.
On Saturday, the Wildcats finally were able to burst the Pioneers’ bubble with a 9-0 victory via the run rule in the first game of a doubleheader. In the nightcap, TWU bounced back and used a sixth-inning Jordan Readicker home run to edge the Wildcats 3-2 in front of a school-record crowd of 373 at Pioneer Field.
Readicker, who was hitless in her first four at-bats of the day, just needed a little motivation to give the Pioneers the game-winning run.
“I looked up to the stands and somebody told me to get mad, so that’s exactly what I did,” Readicker said. “I hadn’t been getting on base all game, so I knew I had to do something. ACU is a good team. We knew that no matter what the end result was that we were going to be proud that we came back and fought hard.”
The Pioneers (27-7, 5-1 Lone Star) had allowed two runs on an error and an infield hit by Taylor Fitzgerald in the second inning, but they tied it in the fifth on Haley Cowell’s third home run of the season and Lizzy Kelly’s RBI triple to center field.
“She was the nine-hole [hitter] last year,” TWU coach Richie Bruister said of Kelly. “That’s your second leadoff, and that’s just the way the lineup was. Our three-hole hitter was an All-American last year in Tiffany Weise, so we knew we had to replace that. Lizzy worked her way up from the six-hole, and she kept hitting and moving up in the lineup to find her home.”
Kelly’s game-tying triple primed TWU for its second comeback of the series, and Readicker smashed a 2-1 pitch to left field off Caityln Crain, who was victimized in the seventh inning of Friday’s 8-7 decision, for her sixth home run of the season.
“We needed it, because we are just playing home run ball at this point,” Bruister said. “It’s 2-2 and we knew the wind was blowing out. If we put one good swing on one, we’ve got this thing. The pitcher left one over the plate, and she made her pay for it.”
After picking up her team-leading 10th win of the season Friday, Brandie Lander (11-3) earned her second victory over the Wildcats, striking out seven while allowing one earned run on six hits. Lander worked around a leadoff walk in the top of the seventh, and the Pioneers won the series.
“She was outstanding,” Bruister said. “She was hitting her spots, keeping the ball down and she had her rise ball working today, which was good because she made the hitters look up and down. It’s tough coming out with all the emotion from last night, and now you know you have to win to win the series and you’re the starting pitcher. She took that closer mentality into the seventh inning and turned it up a notch.”
The Wildcats (16-14, 2-4) played with a renewed defensive spirit in the opener, shutting out the Pioneers in five innings for their first conference loss.
Crain, with an ACU-high eight wins, struck out six and allowed just two hits — doubles by Kelly and Hines.
Led by Sara Vaughn’s 3-for-3, four-RBI performance, Abilene Christian scored in each of the first four innings, exploding with six runs in the fourth. That happened despite losing Courtney Flanary, the team’s leading home run hitter, after she suffered a lower-body injury while celebrating her go-ahead three-run homer in the sixth inning Friday.
After Vaughn’s RBI single in the first, Fitzgerald’s home run in the second made it 2-0. Vaughn added another single in the third to drive home Lyndi Smith, who reached on a double off Sarah Wittenburg’s glove.
In the fourth, the Wildcats ripped the game wide open with six runs on five hits and an error. Keanna Winkfield’s RBI single off Wittenburg’s glove started the scoring, and Hines got two batters to ground out. Madison Buckley’s single through the right side of the infield gave the Wildcats a 5-0 lead while also chasing Hines (8-2) from the game in favor of Karissa Hartwig.
The pitching change didn’t keep Vaughn from sending a bases-loaded single to right field for a 7-0 lead. Cara Hoovers’ infield popup bounced off Kendra Sancet’s glove as she collided with Wittenburg, allowing two unearned runs to score.
Despite suffering their first home loss, Bruister said the Pioneers reached their goal of winning the series.
“We gave ourselves that opportunity on Friday night by winning the first game, and I told them after the first game today, ‘It’s over, don’t worry about it,’” Bruister said. “When you play 50-something games, you’re going to have a bad one. We got all that mess out of our system and came back and played great softball in the second game.”
The Pioneers will return to action at 2 p.m. Friday in Lawton, Okla., when they begin a three-game series with Cameron.
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873. His e-mail address is email@example.com .
ABILENE CHRISTIAN 9, TWU 0
WP — Caitlyn Crain (8-6). LP — Katie Hines (8-2). 2B — A: Keanna Winkfield, Lyndi Smith. T: Lizzy Kelly, Hines. HR — A: Taylor Fitzgerald.
TWU 3, ABILENE CHRISTIAN 2
WP — Brandie Lander (11-3). LP — Crain (8-7). 2B — A: Heather Peacock. 3B — T: Kelly. HR — T: Jordan Readicker, Haley Colwell.