BATON ROUGE, La. – The University of Central Arkansas softball team began its 2020 campaign on the road against No. 11 Louisiana State on Thursday.
Mary Kate Brown led the Bears at the plate with a 2 for 3 performance as UCA outhit No. 11 LSU 6-3, but UCA (0-1) fell to No. 11 LSU (1-0), 3-2.
The Bears doubled the hit total by LSU despite one of the best arms in the Southeastern Conference and an NFCA All-American in Shelbi Sunseri in the circle.
Kayla Crutchmer led the game off with an infield single to short.
She advanced to second on a stolen base and then moved to third on a passed ball.
Kaylyn Shepherd drove a ball deep down the left-field line for a sac fly that scored Crutchmer from third.
Rio Sanchez got the start in the circle for UCA.
She retired the Tigers in order in the bottom of the first on just eight pitches.
The Tigers plated two runs in the home half of the second.
Amanda Doyle doubled down the right-field line to score Akiya Thymes from first.
Doyle scored on a throwing error and LSU took a 2-1 lead into the third.
Reagan Sperling recorded a one-out single to right. Brown added an infield single and advanced Sperling to second.
The Bears stranded two runners in the top of the third.
LSU added another run in the third on a two-out home run by Georgia Clark.
After walking the bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth, Sanchez was resilient and battled to get out of the inning unscathed.
Brown picked up her second hit of the game as she led the top of the sixth off with a single to left.
Jenna Wildeman pinch ran for Brown and reached second on a fielding error by the LSU shortstop.
After a throwing error advanced Wildeman to third, Erin Blackburn drove a ball to left for a sac fly.
Jordan Johnson relieved Sanchez in the circle with one on in the bottom of the six.
Johnson went three up, three down and kept the Tigers off of the board.
Tylar Vernon led the top of the seventh off with a single to right center.
LSU’s Ali Kilponen came in for Shelbi Sunseri and retired the Bears in order.
Despite earning the loss in the circle, Sanchez finished the game with two strikeouts and scattered three hits in five innings of work.
Johnson tallied one strikeout in her inning in the circle.
Sunseri picked up the win for LSU with six innings in the circle with one strikeout and surrendered six hits.
Crutchmer inches closer to third place in the UCA record book with her two stolen bases. Her new tally is 73 and is just five shy of third.
The Bears return to action on Friday for day one of the Big Easy Tournament at LaSalle Park in Metairie, Louisiana.
UCA begins the tournament at 9:30 a.m. with a game against Montana, followed by a noon matchup against Jackson State.
“I thought we played well,” UCA softball coach David Kuhn said. “Rio pitched really well tonight. Jordan Johnson did a great job in relief. We need to clean up a few things, but I feel good about our team after tonight. We had our chances to win the ball game.”