North Alabama's three seniors each contributed in a big way Sunday as the Lion softball team swept West Florida to get back in the race to qualify for the Gulf South Conference Tournament. The trio of Jennifer Sharp, Natalie Harrison and Emily Barnes combined for nine hits, six runs scored and seven RBI on the day as the Lions beat UWF 10-4 and 4-2.
The sweep, along with Valdosta State's two wins over West Alabama on Sunday, puts the Lions back in third place in the GSC East Division standings. UNA is now 15-23 overall with a 10-12 mark in league play.
In the first game, UNA overcame an early 3-0 deficit by pounding out a season-high 17 hits over Argonaut starter Victoria Harvey. Every player in the UNA batting order recorded a hit in the game.
West Florida took advantage of a UNA error in the top of the first inning to score three unearned runs. North Alabama starter Haley Barnette, however, was able to hold the visitors to one run off four hits from that point to improve to 8-11 on the season. The freshman finished the game with four strikeouts.
The Lions used a four-run second inning to take the lead for good, beginning with a two-out RBI-double by Barnes. Sharp and Sarah Corn also drove in runs in the frame as UNA scored four runs off six hits.
Harrison led off the bottom of the fourth with a solo home run to start a five-run inning for the Lions. Another RBI-single by Corn, an RBI-double by Julie Mercer and a two RBI-Single by Alex Kieffer gave UNA a 9-3 lead.
Mercer doubled in her second run of the game in the bottom of the fifth inning to score Sharp and wrap up the scoring for the Lions.
Five different players had a multiple-hit outing in the opener. Barnes led the way with a 3-for-3, two-RBI showing. Corn and Mercer each went 3-for-4 at the plate while Sharp was 2-for-3 and Kathryn Young was 2-for-4.
The second game featured a pitchers' duel through the first four innings of play. West Florida recorded the game's first hit and converted it into a run in the top of the fourth stanza. Another RBI-single put the Argonauts on top 2-0 in the top of the fifth before UNA responded in the bottom of the inning.
Mercer led off the frame with her third double of the day and later scored on a two-out home run by Harrison. The two-run blast hit the top of the right field fence and bounced over, giving the senior two homers on the day and tying the game at 2-2.
The two-out rally continued for the Lions as Barnes singled, then scored on an RBI-double by Young. After advancing to third on a wild pitch, Young scored on a single by Sharp to give UNA a 4-2 lead.
Evalena Behr made sure the lead held up from that point, keeping the visitors off the scoreboard to record her fifth win of the season. The sophomore recorded the complete-game victory after scattering five hits with two walks and five strikeouts.
Mercer finished the second game 2-for-2 at the plate to lead the Lions.
UNA will be off for two weeks before traveling for its next GSC series at West Georgia on April 30. The Lions' scheduled double-header at Lambuth on April 23 has been cancelled.