Whitney Hood tied the game with a two-run homer in the second, Jackie Castaneda drove in a pair of runs and Kayla Byrom tossed a complete-game six-hitter to lead 10th-ranked Shorter to a 5-2 win over St. Gregory’s (Okla.) in each team’s first game of Pool G at the NAIA national tournament in Gulf Shores, Ala.
The Lady Hawks, now 1-0 in pool play, will take on Madonna (Mich.) at 6 p.m. tonight with hopes of staying unbeaten in Pool G in advance of an anticipated showdown with defending national champion Oregon Tech in Saturday’s pool finale.
Shorter (47-11), which as advanced out of pool play in each of the last two years, got dominant pitching and timely hitting to get past a pesky bunch from St. Gregory’s.
Two errors led to two unearned St. Gregory’s runs in the first inning. Byrom, who, tossed back-to-back complete-game shut-outs in the SSAC Tournament against perennial powers and 2012 national tournament teams Lee and Brenau, surrendered just four hits in the final six innings and worked out of a first and third jam in the sixth by getting pinch hitter Courtney Dodson to fly out to Charlsie Broome in center.
Byrom, a freshman, finished with three strikeouts and just one walk in her seven innings and showed tremendous con-trol despite playing in her first national tournament, peppering the strike zone to the tune of 70 strikes and 32 balls.
With Byrom settling on the rubber, Shorter’s offense got the jump start it needed from Hood, who stroked a two-run shot to left with two outs in the second to tie the game at 2. It was Hood’s third home run of the season, but her second in postseason play after she recorded a homer during the SSAC Tournament.
The Lady Hawks took the lead for good when Brooke Bryan scored from second on a wild throw from St. Gregory’s third baseman Kristen Wehmeyer after she fielded a sacrifice bunt attempt by Maddie Bray. The Lady Hawks loaded the bases in the inning and Castaneda drew a two-out walk with the bases juiced to extend Shorter’s lead to 4-2.
Castaneda added on some insurance for the Lady Hawks in the sixth with another two-out hit, this time an RBI double to right center that scored Broome for a 5-2 lead. Byrom retired the Cavaliers in order in the seventh and the Lady Hawks were suddenly 1-0.
St. Gregory’s outhit Shorter 6-5, but never strung together any real threats. Shorter made the most of its opportunities, getting the home run from Hood and patient, two-out at-bats late to emerge victorious.
The Cavaliers jumped out to an early 2-0 lead after one half inning after an infield error extended the top of the first. Tara Nail’s RBI single up the middle plated Emily Ledinski and Caitlin O’Hagan came around to score on the same play after Broome’s throw from center sailed wild.
Castaneda finished 2-for-2 with a walk and the two RBI while Hood was 1-for-3 with the homer. Broome went 1-for-3 with a walk and a stolen base for the Lady Hawks.