CLINTON, Miss. — Emily Nolan continued writing her name in the LSU Eunice record book while leading her team closer to some record-making of its own.
Nolan hit a three-run home run and a grand slam as the Lady Bengals run-ruled their opponent for the second time in as many games at the NJCAA Division II Softball National Championship, beating Scottsdale (Ariz.) Community College 12-2 in six innings Thursday at Traceway Park.
Added to a two-run homer that jump-started an 11-3, five-inning victory against Delaware Tech Community College-Owens on Wednesday, Nolan’s homers gave her a school-record 20 for the season. The previous record of 19 was set by Rhea Person in 2009.
“That girl is on fire,” LSU Eunice coach Andy Lee said. “She’s a sophomore who has just stepped up in big moments. It’s great for us and the team and she is really carrying us.”
The defending national champion Lady Bengals (60-2) will play at noon Friday in a winner’s bracket game against Des Moines (Iowa) Area Community College. They will play a second game Friday regardless of whether they win or lose the first.
“This was a big win for us because we can sit back and wait for (Friday) and not use a lot of pitching or tire ourselves,” Lee said.
LSU Eunice took a 4-0 lead in the third, but the eighth-seeded Fighting Artichokes (45-23) cut the lead in half in the bottom of the fourth.
Then Nolan drove a three-run homer over the fence in left-center in the fifth to extend the lead to 7-2. Brooklynn Clark’s RBI single preceded Nolan’s grand slam, which soared well beyond the left-field fence in the sixth.
“I was so mad at myself because the first pitch was such a fat strike,” Nolan said. “I was like, ‘oh my gosh I just took that. There’s goes my chance for a good hit.’ I just bowed up and knew I had to get a hit and get some runs in.”
The home run put the Lady Bengals in position to win another shortened game if they could maintain at least an eight-run lead after six. They did so after Destin Vicknair retired Scottsdale in order.
“I was so excited after Emily’s homer that I was jumping up and down like a fool,” Vicknair said. “I was so happy for her.”
The shortened game was also good news for Vicknair, who’ll start the first game Friday.
“I feel very confident,” she said. “I know I need to get my rest and take care of my arm and just go out and throw strikes like I did today.”
LSU Eunice has used just two pitchers and played just 11 innings in the field.
“We just come out and try and play every inning and win every inning,” Lee said.
Nolan, who raised her school-record runs batted in total to 97, said she thinks other teams will take notice of the shortened games.
“I think it’s intimidating for other teams to see us run-rule teams at the national championship where everybody is so good,” she said.
Nolan’s long-ball barrage was complemented by Taylor Boulet’s small-ball contributions. Her two-run double broke a scoreless tie in the third and she stole third and came home on Clark’s single.
In the fifth she hustled into second base on an infield error, two at bats ahead of Nolan’s first error.
“I’m real aggressive on the bases,” Boulet said. “I always look for the extra base because I know the people behind me in the lineup are going to drive me in.”
Nolan has done her part, going 4 for 5 with 10 RBI after her record-breaking grand slam.
“That was the best way to break it,” Nolan said. “I was so excited, so pumped. It was awesome to cross home plate and see my teammates so pumped too. It was so much fun.”
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