And then there was only one

SNU Athletics
Julia Schwake

BENTONVILLE, Ark. – Southern Nazarene Softball made history on Saturday after grabbing their first conference tournament title after taking down Southern Arkansas by four runs in the final game in Bentonville.

The Storm (38-15, 25-8 GAC) are no strangers to postseason play, making it to the GAC Tournament several times since joining Division II. This Saturday was a bit different as the Storm earned their first championship title after, edging the Muleriders (34-17, 21-12 GAC) 5-1 with an incredible offensive performance and a complete game from starting pitcher Janie Worthington.

Southern Nazarene stuck the Muleriders in a one-run hole in the first inning after a Liana Heshiki double plated Kenedi Morelock. Southern Arkansas was unable to answer the Storm in the bottom half of the inning.

Both squads suffered through quick three up and three down second and third innings, but Southern Nazarene quickly regained momentum after a Sydney Sundbye ground out and a Mikayla Franks single sent home both Heshiki and Mullendore for the 3-0 lead.

The Storm defense defended their lead in the bottom of the fourth, delivering the Muelriders a quick three outs to return the plate. After Emma Green singled to kick off the fifth inning, she was able to steal third base and score on an SAU fielding error, bumping SNU to a 4-0 gap. Emma Swearingen reached on a fielder’s choice allowing Morelock to score from third base and SNU was soon ahead by five runs after they were handed their third out.

Southern Arkansas felt the pressure and homered to left field in their first at-bat of the bottom of the fifth to cut the gap to four runs. The SNU defense halted their fire by handing them a quick three outs to turn over the inning.

Southern Nazarene struggled to keep their heat going as SAU forced another quick three-up and three-down inning. The Muleriders looked to continue chipping away at the deficit, breaking out two singles to send two on base. SNU stopped their fire with a pop-up and a double play, sending the game to the final inning still ahead 5-1.

The Storm had an exciting final inning with a single, a walk, and a stolen base, but none of the action brought in a run. The Muleriders had one final chance to erase the four-run gap, but Worthington and the Storm defense handed them three back-to-back outs to claim the final victory and the 2024 GAC Tournament Title by a final score of 5-1.

Morelock was 3-4 at the plate with two runs to lead the offense. Worthington grabbed another complete game with five strikeouts and four hits allowed.

Up Next

Southern Nazarene will now prepare for the NCAA selection show taking place May 5th at 9 AM where they will await their regional fate. Prior to the tournament, SNU held the seventh-place spot in the region and they look to climb that ranking ladder following their title win.

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