BEAUMONT, Texas – Sable Hankins picked the right time to hit Lamar University’s first home run at home this season.
Hankins hit a three-run home run to jump start a five-run third inning as the Cardinals advanced to the finals of the Beaumont Regional of the National Invitational Softball Championship with a 6-1 win over the Abilene Christian Wildcats at the LU Softball Complex on Wednesday.
It was the first HR the Cardinals hit at their home venue since Hankins homered against McNeese on April 29, 2016. Hankins lead the Cardinals with five home runs and 33 RBIs this season.
“It felt great,” Hankins said about her homer that cleared the left-field fence. “We’re looking for some redemption after the conference tournament. We’re not taking anything for granted.”
The five-run outburst was more than enough offensive support for LU starter Ciara Luna (14-16), who got her second win in as many days in the regionals. Luna allowed four hits and one run, none earned, over seven innings. She walked two and struck out five. Luna retired the first 12 batters she faced, seeing her bid for a perfect game end when Braegan Hamilton led off the fifth inning with a bunt single.
The Cardinals, who scored just six runs in three games at the Southland Conference Tournament, have scored 13 runs in two games at the regionals.
“To score 13 runs in two games in the postseason is impressive,” LU coach Holly Bruder said. “We only got four hits, but we had quality at-bats. Three of our four hits were for extra bases, and we took advantage of our opportunities.”
Kelly Meeuwsen had two of LU’s hits, including a triple. Brittany Rodriguez doubled for LU’s other hit. It was the 70th hit of the season for Rodriguez to tied her own school record.
Hannah Null (12-15) started and took the loss for ACU (33-21), allowing three hits and four runs, all earned, in two innings. She walked two and struck out four. Sidney Holman allowed one hit and two runs, one earned, in four innings of relief. She walked two and struck out three.
The Cardinals will play in the championship round at noon Thursday against the winner of Wednesday’s 7 p.m. game between Abilene Christian and Louisiana-Monroe. The Cardinals would claim the title with a win. If LU drops the noon game, there would be a winner-take-all game at 3 p.m. Thursday.
“We want to go out there at noon and win our first regional championship,” Bruder said. “That’s our mentality. We don’t want to have the attitude that a team has to beat us twice. We want to get it done.”
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