NATCHITOCHES, Louisiana -- Sophomore Brooke Malia’s walk-off home run in the ninth inning backed a stellar pitching performance by senior Lindsey McLeod as Sam Houston State advanced to the championship round of the Southland Conference Tournament with a 2-0 victory over Nicholls Thursday afternoon at Lady Demon Diamond.
The top-seeded Bearkats (33-21) will play the winner of Thursday’s late game between either No. 3 McNeese State/No. 4 Stephen F. Austin and No. 2 Nicholls (33-21) Friday at noon. A second game will follow Friday if necessary in the double-elimination tournament.
Thursday’s contest featured a pitchers’ duel between McLeod and Megan Landry, who were both first-team All-SLC selections this season. Landry (26-11) was the first to crack, serving up the game-winning blast to Malia, her 11th of the season, which easily cleared the left-field wall with junior Tiffany Thompson on second base.
McLeod, the SLC Player and Pitcher of the Year, tied the record for most shutouts pitched in a SLC tournament with two (Central Arkansas’ Kylee Studioso did it 2015) a day after blanking No. 5 Southeastern Louisiana over seven frames. She also struck out eight Nicholls’ batters to improve to 20-8 on the season and increased her tournament strikeout total to 19 in 16 consecutive scoreless innings.
Nicholls threatened to break the scoreless tie in the seventh when Melise Goosen doubled with one out and advanced to third on a flyball to right field. McLeod was able to coax a flyball to left field to get out of the jam.
The Colonels also had a runner reach second with one out in the eighth, but McLeod got another flyout and a strikeout to end the inning.
Sam Houston State has played in the championship round of the SLC tournament five times in the program’s history. The Bearkats won it in 1988 and 2007 when SHSU earned its first appearance in an NCAA Regional.
Friday’s championship game will be broadcast live on ESPNU.