Kats claim SLC tournament title

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NATCHITOCHES, La. - Sophomore Brooke Malia and junior Tiffany Thompson hit back-to-back home runs in the sixth inning to lift the Sam Houston State softball team to the Southland Conference Tournament championship with a 2-1 victory over Nicholls Friday afternoon at Lady Demon Diamond.

The Bearkats (34-21) also won the SLC regular-season title and now advance to the NCAA Regionals for the second time in school history (2007). The selection show will be televised on Sunday at 8 p.m. on ESPN2.

“I’m so proud of this group,” head coach Garrett Valis said. “We were great in all three phases. It is so hard to score runs off Megan Landry. She is one of the most fabulous pitchers that has ever pitched in our league and has had a tremendous year. I’m glad we had Lindsey McLeod on our side. She was an ounce better.”

The Colonels got on the board first with a solo home run to right field by Amanda Gianelloni, her sixth of the season, to lead off the sixth inning. That's the only run senior Lindsey McLeod (21-8) surrendered in the tournament.

Thompson tied the game in the bottom of the sixth when she launched her sixth home run of the season into the left-field stands. Malia, who hit a walk-off, two-run home run in Thursday’s 2-0 victory over Nicholls that sent the Bearkats to the championship round, took Colonels' ace Megan Landry deep to left-center field, her 12th of the year, to put Sam Houston on top 2-1.

McLeod gave up a single to start the seventh but quickly closed the door on Nicholls (34-21). She finished with nine strikeouts to give her a total of 28 for the tournament.

McLeod went 3-0 and tied the SLC tournament record for most shutouts pitched with two to earn tournament Most Valuable Player honors.

“This team is a team that really takes adversity by the neck,” said McLeod, who pitched 21 consecutive scoreless innings in the tournament. “They never get down and always keep pushing.”

Malia, who tied for the tournament lead with two home runs, and sophomore Bailey White, who drove in three runs in the Kats’ 7-0 victory over Southeastern Louisiana in the opener, were also named to the all-tournament team.