Softball team splits with #21 West Florida

FLORENCE – The University of North Alabama softball team missed an opportunity Saturday to grab sole possession of fourth place in the Gulf South Conference East Division. After defeating No. 21 West Florida 6-1 in the opener of the double-header, the Lions were unable to find the key hit in a 9-3 extra-inning loss in the second game at the UNA Softball Complex. The split, along with Valdosta State's sweep over West Alabama on the same day, puts the Lions and Tigers in a tie for fourth place in the division with identical 5-9 league records.

In the first game, six different UNA players recorded at least one hit as the Lions pushed six runs across home plate. Emily Barnes was 2-for-3 with an RBI while Jennifer Sexton improved to 11-11 on the year after scattering seven hits and allowing only a single run.

West Florida got on the scoreboard first with its lone run in the top of the first inning. The Lions, however, responded in the bottom of the frame to take a 2-1 lead and never trail again in the outing. Jennifer Sharp and Maggie Eades each picked up RBI-singles in the inning.

In the third inning, UNA took advantage of a West Florida error to pick up a pair of unearned runs. After Barnes led off the inning with a double, she later scored from third on a two-out throwing error. Andrea Palmer, who walked to reach base, also scored on the play to put the Lions on top 4-1.

North Alabama added single runs in the bottom of the fifth and sixth innings to make the final score 6-1.  After a lead-off triple by Palmer, a sacrifice fly by Eades gave UNA a 5-1 lead. In the sixth, Natalie Harrison hit her first career home run for the Lions with a solo shot to wrap up the scoring for the game.

UNA had chances to complete the sweep in the second game, but could not find the hits at critical times. With the game tied at 3-3, the Lions left runners on base in the bottom of the fifth and sixth innings then, went down in order in the seventh and eighth frames.

West Florida saved its best bats for the top of the eighth inning, scoring six runs off six hits to pave the way for a 9-3 win.

Freshman pitcher Laurin Watts (7-11) entered the ninth inning holding the Argonauts to three runs off eight hits before the UWF bats came alive. She finished the game with six strikeouts and eight earned runs.

Sharp was 2-for-3 in the second game while Harrison was 3-for-5 with an RBI and two runs scored. She finished the weekend batting .500 in four games and was also 2-for-2 in stolen-base attempts.

North Alabama will now turn its attention to next weekend's GSC Crossover at Wilson Morgan Park in Decatur. The Lions will play single games against all seven teams from the West Division. All games will count in the GSC standings.