Lamar starts 2-0 in Virginia; Kennesaw in semis next

Published 11:47 pm Monday, May 22, 2017

Lamar sports information

LYNCHBURG, Va. – Brittany Rodriguez’s two-run single in the third inning proved to be the perfect gift for Ciara Luna’s 22nd birthday as the senior right-hander picked up her 35th career win in a 2-1 victory over Illinois State on Monday to propel the Lamar Cardinals into the semifinals of the National Invitational Softball Championships.

Luna (18-17), who allowed three hits and a run in the first inning, settled down over the final six frames, surrendering just three hits the rest of the way as LU improved to 33-29 on the season. The Cardinals return to action at 3 p.m. today facing Kennesaw State (40-18). Luna gave herself a birthday gift as well, as she struck out five to run her season total to 149, passing the previous school record of 145 set by Shannon Millman in 2013.

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“It was another great pitching performance by Ciara,” LU coach Holly Bruder said. “I loved the way Ciara fought back after the first inning.”

Illinois State (33-23) took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first on an RBI single by Riley Strandgard. Luna avoided further trouble, getting out of a bases-loaded jam to end the inning.

The Cardinals got to Illinois State starter Sarah Finck (23-13) in the third inning to take the lead for good. Shelby Hughston led off with a walk and moved to third on Ashley McDowell’s single down the right-field line. It was the 200th career hit for McDowell, who became the first LU player to reach that milestone. McDowell, who advanced to second on the throw, and Hughston both came home when Rodriguez singled up the middle.

That was enough support for Luna, who improved to 5-1 in the NISC. Luna was aided by solid defense throughout the contest, as the Cardinals played errorless ball.

McDowell had two hits for LU, while Rodriguez and Maddy Myers had the other hits for the Cardinals.

“We got timely hitting when we needed it,” Bruder said. “Our defense has really stepped up in the postseason as well.”

Lamar 8, Cal Poly 6

Sable Hankins crushed a mammoth three-run home run and Brittany Rodriguez had four hits as the Lamar Cardinals slugged their way to an 8-6 win over the Cal Poly Mustangs in the opening game of the National Invitational Softball Championships on Sunday.

The Cardinals (32-29) roughed up Cal Poly starter Sierra Hyland, who entered the game with a 0.97 ERA, to the tune of 10 hits and six runs, five earned, in 5 1/3 innings. The Mustangs won their NISC regional with three straight shutout victories.