Special to The Times-Georgian
The University of West Georgia softball team split a Gulf South Conference doubleheader against No. 22 West Florida Friday at University Field, prevailing in a 2-1 pitchers’ duel in the opener before falling in a 9-2 decision in the nightcap.
Game 3 of the series was rained out Saturday and will not be rescheduled. Despite not being able to play, UWG still celebrated Senior Day, honoring its 12 seniors at an indoor facility on campus.
Following the split, the Wolves are now 23-12 overall and 17-9 in conference play heading into the final series of the regular season this weekend at Mississippi College. UWG is currently in fifth place in the league standings with the GSC Tournament slated for May 6-9 in Oxford, Alabama.
UWG sophomore hurler Kya Draper was on her game in the opener, earning the victory behind seven sparkling innings of work in the circle. The McDonough native allowed one run on three hits with one walk and six strikeouts to improve to 8-3 on the season.
Her counterpart was also impressive, as UWF’s Grace Gilbert fired six innings, yielding two runs — one earned — on four hits with two walks and one strikeout.
Neither team scored over the first four innings, but Draper did have to pitch around leadoff baserunners in each of the first three innings. She held strong, and the UWG offense got her a lead in the home half of the fifth inning.
Sophomore left fielder Chandler Mevis started the rally with a one-out single that was followed by a base knock by senior first baseman Cassie Henderson. Still with one out, senior catcher Leslie Brogden beat out what would have been an inning-ending double play to keep the frame alive. That set up an RBI single from senior right fielder Madison Slappey, scoring Mevis and later Brogden as the throw in from the outfield got away from the UWF catcher.
With a 2-0 lead in the sixth, Draper got a little help from Mevis, who robbed former All-American third baseman Teala Howard of extra bases with a diving catch in the outfield. It proved to be even bigger when the next batter, shortstop Mika Garcia, slugged a solo shot to cut the lead in half. Draper shut down the Argo offense the rest of the way, not allowing any baserunners following the solo shot. UWG had just four hits in the win with senior shortstop Alley Taylor, Mevis, Henderson and Slappey registering singles.
The Argo offense was determined to prove something in the nightcap, as West Florida came out swinging with 11 hits in the game, including four home runs. After two runners got on in the first against UWG senior starter Morgan Goree, UWF first baseman Ally Merrill doubled home a pair, giving the visitors an early lead. Merrill later scored on a wild pitch, stretching the lead to 3-0 before the Wolves even touched a bat. West Florida added a third run in the second, chasing Goree after just 1.2 innings pitched.
Slappey put the Wolves on the board with her third home run of the season in the second, driving home senior second baseman Ashley Ellison who had reached on a one-out single. Senior Lexi Close didn’t fare well in relief, however, surrendering two runs on two home runs in just two-thirds of an inning. Senior Katie Foote came on to relieve Close and was charged with three runs allowed on four hits in an inning of work.
The Argos slugged four home runs in the Game 2 victory, but continued to be fooled by Draper. She was the fourth pitcher of the game for the Wolves, tossing 3.2 innings of perfect relief, striking out six.
The Wolves close the regular season with a road trip to Clinton, Mississippi, for a three-game series against the Choctaws (16-19, 12-14 GSC). The action begins with a 2 p.m. twin bill on Saturday and wraps up with a 2 p.m. first pitch on Sunday at MC Softball Complex.