Arkansas Tech University captured its first Great American Conference Tournament championship in softball on Sunday afternoon by defeating Southern Nazarene University 2-1 at the Tiger Athletic Complex in Bentonville.
With the win, the Golden Suns (43-17) earned an automatic bid to the 2018 NCAA Division II Tournament.
“There are no words,” said Kristina McSweeney, ATU head coach, in a post-game interview with the GAC Sports Network. “It’s a long time coming. This is a hard-working group. I just love coaching them. I love everything about them. They do everything I ask, and they’re a fun group to be around.
Arkansas Tech won all four of its games at the double-elimination 2018 GAC Tournament. The first three wins came by a combined margin of 25-4.
The trophy clincher came by a considerably smaller margin. The score was tied 1-1 with two out in the top of the seventh inning when Tech’s Bailey Bunch sent a ground ball to the left side of the infield.
It scooted between the legs of the Southern Nazarene shortstop and into left field, allowing Sarah Coronado to race home from second base with the go-ahead run.
The Crimson Storm made the Golden Suns earn it in the last of the seventh. Kendal Stockstill delivered a two-out single and Mahina Sauer drew a walk to put the tying and winning runs on base.
Tech reliever Cara Tolar fought on and induced a fly ball to right field by Katelyn Brown. Janie Knowles caught in, and Arkansas Tech was conference champion once more.
Tolar (5-4) pitched three and two-thirds innings of scoreless relief for the win. Megan Goodnight started in the circle for the Golden Suns and worked three and one-third innings. She surrendered one unearned run on six hits.
Southern Nazarene took a 1-0 lead in the second inning on a run-scoring single to right field by Sydni Toilolo.
Bunch answered for Tech in the top of the fifth inning by driving a 1-1 pitch over the right field fence to tie the score at 1-1.
The Suns’ speed made the difference in the end. Coronado beat out an infield single to reach base and went to second on an infield single by Sydnie Henson before coming home with what proved to be the winning run two batters later.
Goodnight was voted tournament most valuable player. She was joined on the all-tournament team by fellow Golden Suns Ashton Sangster, Makenzie Addis, Knowles and Bunch.
It was the fourth GAC postseason championship for an Arkansas Tech women’s team during the 2017-18 academic year. The Golden Suns also won GAC Tournament titles in volleyball, basketball and golf.