Simmons walk-off home completes sweep of Crimson Storm

By HAROLD HARMON Sports Writer

March 15, 2014

Fans who missed Southeastern’s 2-1 and 4-2 wins over Southern Nazarene also missed the Jessica Simmons Show.

Simmons is known for bunting, slapping and stealing bases. Southeastern trailed 1-0 going into the bottom of the seventh of the first game. With a runner on and one out, the strategy was determined when Simmons said to coach Ron Faubion, “I’ll just hit a home run.”

Simmons has several in-the-park homers, but she had never hit the ball over the fence. Scratch that information.

The 1-1 pitch came in and Simmons, all 102 pounds of the left-handed hitter, orbited it over the left-field fence for an opposite-field home run that gave the LadyStorm a 2-1 comeback victory.

It was the second-consecutive game Southeastern had won with walk-of homers.

Southeastern improved to 18-7 overall and 13-3 in Great American Conference competition. Mindy McElroy pitched a complete-game win in the opener and improved to 9-3. Jacee Bennett went six innings in the nightcap to make her record 6-2 with McElroy working the last inning to pick up her second save.

Coach Faubion said, “These were great wins for us. We just have to keep winning and that can add pressure to the kids. At the moment, we’re handling it okay and we just have to keep on handling it.

“Jessica was simply outstanding. I don’t know where that home run came from, I’m just glad she had one. She did exactly what she said she would do.

“Runs were hard to come by and we had only 13 hits on the day. We’re still getting excellent defensive play. Sydney Kramer caught one deep ball to straight-away center field with her back to home plate. It was a great catch and I don’t know how she made it. We’re getting excellent play from the left side with (shortstop) Haley Strawn and (third baseman) Lacie Cook.

“Rachel Jones put down a great squeeze bunt to score our winning run in the second game. Coming off the bench and making that play is really tough, but she came through for us.

“These were wins we really needed and we got them. We’re hoping to host Minnesota-Duluth Monday. We beat the weather (Saturday) and hopefully we can do it again Monday.”

In the two games Saturday, Simmons sliced and diced Crimson Storm pitching for four hits in five at-bats, three runs score, three walks, two runs batted in, a double, her first home run and five stolen bases.

Southeastern is scheduled to play Minnesota-Duluth in a 1 p.m. Monday non-conference doubleheader.

First Game

A throwing error by the catcher gave Southern Nazarene a runner to open the fifth. A fly to center and a roller to third made it two down, but an infield hit allowed the run to score and make it 1-0, SNU.

The Storm left runners stranded in every inning except the third before the big seventh-inning rally.

Darrian Williams worked a leadoff walk and Lauren Renneker bunted her to second.

Kayla Wyatt then threw the 1-1 pitch to Simmons that landed somewhere beyond the fence and gave Southeastern the comeback victory.

Simmons and Renneker were one for two each to pace Southeastern. Simmons scored the winning run, hammered a walk-off home run, drove in two, walked twice and stole two bases. Strawn was one for three.

Second Game

SNU picked up two runs in the third on a pair of solo home runs.

The LadyStorm answered in the bottom half with a pair of runs to tie the game. Simmons started it with a single, stole second and went to third on an error at third off the bat of Cook. Kramer’s infield out to second base plated Simmons. Beal singled to right and Strawn doubled in the tying run.

Bennett blanked SNU in the first, second, fourth, fifth and sixth innings. The LadyStorm scored the winning run on a perfectly executed squeeze bunt in the fifth.

Beal started it with a double over the bag at third, Strawn sacrificed her to third and Rachel Jones came on to pinch hit. A perfect squeeze bunt delivered the winning run.

The Storm added an insurance run in the sixth when Simmons belted a one-out double, stole third for her third steal of the game and fifth of the day before scoring on a sacrifice bunt by Cook.

McElroy came on in the sixth inning and blanked the Crimson Storm to wrap up the sweep.

Simmons was three for three, scored two runs, walked and stole three bases to lead the Storm.

Beal was three for four with a double and a run scored. Williams was one for two with a stolen base, Strawn and McElroy were one for three each. Kramer was one for four with a run batted in.

Friday’s Game:

Southeastern’s LadyStorm softballers swept Southern Nazarene 11-7 and 8-0 Friday afternoon, improving to 16-7 overall and 11-3 in Great American Conference action.

Jacee Bennett pitched the first four innings and left with an eight-run cushion at 11-3. She allowed three unearned runs on four hits, walked one, struck out three and improved to 5-2.

Mindy McElroy threw her fifth complete game in the nightcap, giving up no runs on seven hits, walking one, striking out one and running her record to 8-3.

Storm coach Ron Faubion said “We played great defense again and we’re just playing pretty well right now.

“Jacee pitched well except for one pitch that went over the fence with two runners on base.

“Mindy had another outstanding game and we made plays and picked up key hits for both pitchers.

“Sydney Kramer had six runs batted in in the first game and seven for the day. Laramie Beal had a home run and drove in three. Haley Strawn made some outstanding defensive plays at shortstop.

“We’re at the point now where we just have to keep winning and see what happen.”

The LadyStorm are scheduled to host Minnesota-Duluth in a 1 p.m. doubleheader Monday.

First Game

Southeastern scored two in the first when Jessica Simmons led off with a triple and came across on Kramer’s infield out.

Beal hammered her fifth home run to make it 2-0, Storm.

The Crimson Storm scored three in the second to take a brief lead. An outfield error, hit batsman and Kacey Acker’s three-run homer did the damage.

The Storm answered with five runs on three hits in the bottom of the second, sparked by Kramer’s first of two doubles, a three-run rip to left-center. Lacie Cook drew a full-count walk to force in a run and Beal singled to end the scoring and make it 7-3, Storm.

Southeastern added four runs on three hits in the third when Strawn singled and McElroy delivered her first roundtripper to plate a pair. Kramer doubled home two more to make it 11-3, Storm. Bennett pitched a scoreless fourth before leaving the game to Hosanna McCoy and Shayna Milam.

SNU added four runs in the fifth with two unearned. The rally ended when Kramer gunned a strike from center field to catcher Connor Harmon to nail Larisa Rivera for the third out.

Beal was two for two with a home run and two RBIs. Kramer and McElroy were each two for four. Kramer scored a run and drove in six. Beal homered and drove in two runs. McElroy scored two runs, homered and drove in two.

Simmons and Cook were one for two each. Simmons tripled and scored three runs. Arianna Jones, Strawn and Harmon were one for three each.

Sam Smith led SNU with two for three and two runs scored. Lindy Fluman, Kylie Lang and Kacey Acker were two for four each. Acker had a home run, scored twice and drove in four.

Second Game

(6 innings)

Simmons led off for the Storm and scored the eventual winning run in the bottom of the first when she walked, stole second and tallied on a throwing error.

Beal singled to drive in Cook with an insurance run and McElroy threw blanks through six innings.

The Storm went home early when Lauren Renneker belted a one-out, bases-empty home run in the bottom of the sixth to make it 8-0.

A five-run explosion in the fourth gave Southeastern some breathing room.

Strawn slammed a solo homer, her third of the year, to start it. McElroy singled, Darrian Williams walked, Renneker was hit by a pitch and Simmons singled home two runs.

Kramer’s base hit to left drove in the fifth run of the inning to make it 7-0, Storm.

Renneker’s first home run with one out and nobody on base, ended it early in the bottom of the sixth.

Kramer led the Storm with two for three and one RBI. Simmons, Strawn and Renneker were one for two each. Simmons scored two and drove in two. Strawn and Renneker each had home runs. Simmons also stole two bases to give her 15 on the season.

Lang and Megan Blevens were two for three each for the Crimson Storm.