LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - A walk-off single to right-field from McNeese's Erika Piancastelli sends the Cowgirls to the 2018 Southland Conference Softball Tournament championship at Joe Miller Field in Lake Charles, La.
The back-to-back Southland tournament champion defeated No. 1 Nicholls 3-2 in eight innings Thursday to claim a spot in tomorrow's championship, a 12 p.m. first pitch on ESPNU. The Colonels play the winner of No. 4 Southeastern Louisiana and No. 8 Sam Houston State at approximately 4 p.m. CT today for a spot in the title game.
Piancastelli could not have picked a better time to tally her first hit of the contest than in the bottom of the eighth with the bases loaded and two outs. The four-time Southland Player of the Year drove pinch hitter Taylor Edwards home to give McNeese a chance to clinch a berth in its third-consecutive NCAA Tournament.
The game started off in favor of the top-seeded squad.
Nicholls' left fielder Kasey Frederick singled past the shortstop to gain the 1-0 lead in the opening frame of the game. The hit scored third baseman Jewel Lara who had doubled to left field on a 0-2 count. The Cowgirls came close to tying it in the bottom of the first when Piancastelli stole second and third after picking up the four-pitch walk. With runners on the corners, Piancastelli attempted to take home on a delayed steal but was caught.
At her next at-bat in the fourth inning, Frederick blasted a no-doubter to right-centerfield to double the Colonels lead. The Cowgirls tied it up in the fifth inning as first baseman Morgan Catron hit her third homer of the tournament in as many games, lifting one to left-field to score her and right fielder Justyce McClain.
McNeese had an opportunity to take the lead late in the sixth inning with the bases loaded, one out and returning to the top of the order. The Colonels' Alexis LaBure, who had entered in for relief after starting pitcher Megan Landry went five innings, recorded the second out at home to get pinch runner Toni Perrin before striking out Piancastelli looking to get out of the jam.
Nicholls put the pressure on in the top of the seventh with runners on second and third with two outs, but McNeese's Alexandria Flores forced Lara to groundout to the shortstop for the third out to keep the score at two apiece.
Flores tossed 107 pitches for the eight innings, registering six strikeouts and giving up six hits in the process. The win is her 18th of the year.