For the second year in a row, Sam Houston State has reached the Southland Conference tournament title game.
The Bearkats defeated Central Arkansas 12-4 in the final elimination game Saturday morning. Host team and No. 2 seed Northwestern State will be the opponent in the 2:05 p.m. game which will be telecast live on ESPN3.
Sam Houston scored its 12 runs on 18 hits and two UCA errors.
Just as in Sam Houston’s first three victories in the tournament, center fielder Tori Benavidez started things off for the Bearkats.
In the top of the third, the senior doubled to center, then reached third on a bunt single by second baseman Alyssa Coggins. First baseman Kim Damian scored Benavidez with a single to right field to put the Bearkats up 1-0.
Central Arkansas answered with two runs in the bottom of the third as Sam Forrest singled, was sacrificed to second and scored on a double by Melissa Bryant. An error on a sacrifice bunt by Melanie Bryant allowed her sister Melissa to score to go ahead run.
Sam Houston surged back in the lead 5-2 with five consecutive hits in the top of the fifth. Benavidez and Coggins doubled then scored on a single by Damian. Hillary Adams blasted her school season record 13th home run over the center field fence to add two more tallies.
Benavidez added a two-run double to score Ashley Isbell and Jessica Slater in the sixth inning. Central Arkansas added two runs in the bottom of the sixth.
The Kats responded with four more runs in the top of the seventh on RBI singles by Damian and Isbell, a passed ball and an error.
Shelby Lancaster (14-7) picked up her third pitching victory of the tournament, allowing just one earned run in four innings before Meme Quinn took over in relief in the fifth. Lancaster returned to the circle in the top of the sixth.
Sam Houston upped its season record to 36-23 while Central Arkansas ends the year 38-20.
Northwestern State took two of three games in both team’s final regular season series in Natchitoches last weekend. The Demons shut out SHSU 1-0 in the Kats’ second contest at the tournament. Northwestern State is the No. 2 seed while Sam Houston is seeded No. 3.