NATCHITOCHES — With one swing a season of highs sits on the brink of disaster.
Top-seeded McNeese State, one win away from tying a school record for victories in a season and fresh off clinching just its third regular season Southland Conference championship, are a loss away from seeing that all come crumbling down.
Melanie Bryant’s two-out, two-strike home run in the top of the ninth inning Thursday has the Cowgirls on the brink of elimination at the SLC tournament on the campus of Northwestern State.
Bryant’s blast over the fence in left gave the fourth-seeded Sugar Bears the 1-0 win in McNeese’s tournament opener, sending the Cowgirls into the losers’ bracket.
Central Arkansas needed to beat Lamar to advance in the winners’ bracket of the double-elimination tournament. The Sugar Bears improved to 38-18 win the win while McNeese fell to 38-14.
The Cowgirls will now have to travel much longer road through the tourney if they want to earn an NCAA bid. They begin that trip with an 11 a.m. elimination game against No. 6 Southeastern.
Southeastern lost to Sam Houston State 9-6 earlier Thursday.
The Cowgirls collected just three hits in the game with Lauren Langner, Ashley Modzelewski and Katie Roux each collecting one of them.
The game was a pitching dual between Meagan Bond and Kelsie Armstrong.
Bond struck out 11 while suffering the tough complete-game loss for McNeese. The senior’s record dropped to 18-6 with the decision.
Armstrong earned the victory to improve to 30-13 by striking out 12.
Bond pitched out of trouble in the sixth when with one out and two runs on base, she struck out the final two hitters in the frame.
Armstrong did not allow a hit in the final four innings, including getting the last out after putting the tying run on base by hitting a batter.
The win was the second in three games for Central Arkansas over McNeese. The teams split a pair of games earlier in the year during a series that was cut short by rain in Conway, Ark.
As for the Cowgirls against today’s opponent, McNeese took 2 of 3 from Southwestern earlier in the year in Lake Charles.