MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Prairie View A&M ended a 20-year title drought, besting Alabama State twice (5-3 and 4-3) to win the 2018 Southwestern Athletic Conference Softball Tournament championship.
Down 3-0, Prairie View (20-21) rallied in the bottom of the fifth, as Keona Hunter was plunked and Destinee Williams managed a single. After a sac bunt moved both into scoring position, Alyssa Garcia ripped a single to left to score Hunter. SWAC Softball Tournament Most Valuable Player Laurisa Hernandez then knotted things up with a RBI single to center that scored D. Williams, with Garcia coming home thanks to an error in centerfield.
After a quick 1-2-3 sixth inning compliments of Crystal Castillo, Shelby Williams reached via error and alertly advanced to third after a groundout by Hunter. D. Williams then gave PVAMU the lead with a two-out RBI single to score S. Williams for the go-ahead run. Castillo retired the side to bring the Lady Panthers their first SWAC title since 1998.
A pitcher's duel through three innings, the Lady Hornets used the long ball to jump ahead in the top of the fourth, as Charlene Castro blasted one over the left field wall for the game's first run and Amira James (2-for-3) followed with a two-run shot, prompting Ashley Higgins to come on in relief of starter Vanessa Castro. Higgins was able to work out of a bases-loaded jam to limit the damage.
The Lady Panthers mounted a threat in the bottom of the frame with singles by pinch-hitter Alyssa Garcia and Hernandez. Although ASU starter Justine Jean struck Kylar Ward-Flowers with a pitch to load the bases with no outs, Jean buckled down to retire the side, with two strikeouts sandwiching the end of the rally.
D. Williams and Hernandez each had a pair of hits. Castillo earned her third win of the tournament with 2.0 innings of shut-out ball in relief.
GAME 1 (5-3, PVAMU)
Prairie View fended off a late rally attempt by Alabama State in game one, using a three-run first inning to surge ahead -- during which Hernandez belted a two-run double near the warning track out right, and Ward-Flowers added a RBI single. Alabama State got one back in the second as Kaitlyn Kilner scored on a RBI sac fly by Aimee Felicies.
Prairie View pushed ahead 4-1 with a RBI double by Hernandez, and went ahead 5-1 after Hunter delivered a RBI single that brought home Alexis Freeman.
In the sixth, Casey Durham tried to give the Lady Hornets a jolt with a solo blast over the left field wall, and Alabama State had a chance to win it in its last at-bat. MaKayla Burt drew a walk, and Felicies followed with a single. Vanessa Bradford brought home pinch-runner Marina Clark with a RBI single to right, prompting V. Castro to come in for relief of Prairie View starter Castillo.
V. Castro struck out pinch-hitter Natalia Rivera, and though Kimberlee Owens picked up a single, Hunter managed to gun down a hard-charging Felicies at the plate, with Amanda Ford making the tag to force the sudden-death game.
Kelsey Coronado went 1-for-3 with two runs. Castillo got the win with 6.1 innings of work, allowing five hits and three runs. She struck out three.
Tiana Sanders, Alabama A&M
Julia Bilbao, Texas Southern
Ta'Lyn Moody, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Jazmine Dukes, Southern
Tevanae Tate, Texas Southern
Justine Jean, Alabama State
Laurisa Hernandez, Prairie View A&M (2018 SWAC Softball Tournament MVP)
Crystal Castillo, Prairie View A&M
Casey Durham, Alabama State
Charlene Castro, Alabama State
Destinee Williams, Prairie View A&M
Kylar Ward-Flowers, Prairie View A&M