Double Play Saves Day for Golden Suns

Arkansas Tech turned a game-ending double play to defeat North Alabama 4-2 in the Golden Suns’ first game at the 2011 Gulf South Conference Softball Crossover in Decatur, Ala., on Thursday.

Ali Barnette came to the plate with a chance to drive in the tying run for North Alabama (9-19 overall, 4-8 GSC) in the top of the seventh inning, but she hit into the game-ending double play that allowed the Golden Suns (21-11, 12-1) to win their ninth consecutive game.

It is the longest winning streak for the Arkansas Tech softball program since it won 11 consecutive contests in April 2009.

Arkansas Tech jumped on top 1-0 on Thursday when Natalie Magie stole home plate in the bottom of the second inning.

One inning later, Shelby Jo Fenter lifted a two-run home run over the left-center field fence to increase the Golden Suns’ lead to 3-0.

Fenter started at pitcher for Tech and held UNA scoreless through four innings, but North Alabama made it interesting with an RBI double from Emily Barnes and an RBI single from Jennifer Sharp in the top of the fifth. Tech’s advantage was trimmed to 3-2.

Shanda Jimeson answered for the Golden Suns with an RBI single in the bottom of the fifth. Jessica Fields, who had started the inning with a bunt single, came home to give Arkansas Tech a 4-2 edge.

Morgan Rodgers came out of the bullpen to pitch the final two innings for the Golden Suns. She pitched around an error to work a scoreless sixth inning, and she worked out of a major jam in the seventh to record her first save of the season.

Kathryn Young singled and Cassandra McKinney doubled with one out to give UNA runners at second and third.

That brought Barnette to the plate with the tying run in scoring positon. She hit a fly ball to right field for the second out.

Young tagged at third on the play and tried to go home, but she retreated and was tagged out by Tech’s Magie at third base for the final out of the game.

The game-ending double play secured Rodgers’ third career save.

Fenter (9-4) won her fifth consecutive decision. She allowed eight hits and recorded nine strikeouts over five innings.

North Alabama pitcher Haley Barnette (5-9) took the loss. She surrendered four runs, three of which were earned, on four hits in six innings.

The Golden Suns, who are ranked third in the latest NCAA Division II South Region softball poll, will continue play in the GSC Crossover on Friday, April 8, with a pair of games. Arkansas Tech will face West Georgia at noon and West Florida at 2 p.m.

Click here to access the GSC Crossover home page courtesy of the University of Alabama in Huntsville Sports Information Department.