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LSUE advances to title game

CLINTON, Mississippi – In a battle between NJCAA Division II powerhouses LSUE and Phoenix, the top-ranked Lady Bengals grabbed a 2-1 win Friday to advance to Saturday’s championship game at Traceway Park in Clinton, Mississippi.
Jensen Howell earned the complete-game win as she limited the Lady Bears to three hits with three strikouts and no walks.
Lady Bengal Kelci Bodin ripped a solo home run, her tenth of the season, to give LSUE a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning of the semifinals.
Madison Monson followed with a single to right field, advanced on a passed ball and then scored when Lexi Jo DeBarge bunted and reached on an throwing error.
No. 3 Phoenix (51-7) threatened in the the second when Haley Johnston reached on an error, Ela Henry singled and Jocellyn LaFlesch and advanced on the second LSUE error to load the bases.
Kamryn Montezuma reached on a fielder’s choice, but Johnston was tagged out at home plate and Howell struck out Natalie Castro to end the inning.
LSUE had a chance to add a run in the bottom of the frame when Howell walked but she was left stranded.
Phoenix closed the gap to 2-1 in the top of the fourth inning when Johnston singled, advanced on a wild pitch and scored on a sacrifice fly by Ela Henry.
LSUE had another opportunity to add a run when Mallory Little walked in the bottom of the fifth and pinch runner Morgan Harlow advanced to third but she was left stranded.
DeBarge bunted her way on in the bottom of the sixth but again LSUE left a runner stranded.
After Howell and the Lady Bengal defense retired 10 batters in a row, Henry tripled in the top of the seventh inning but was left stranded as LSUE held on for the 2-1 victory.
Phoenix pitcher Brianna Hardy limited the Lady Bengals to three hits with nine strikeouts and two walks but two earned runs in the first inning lifted LSUE (51-6) to the win.
Bodin, Monson and LeBarge recorded the three hits for the Lady Bengals.

LSUE 7, HCC 1
The Lady Bengals advanced to the semifinals as No. 1 LSUE rolled to a 7-1 win Friday over No. 4 Highland Community College.
LSUE scored in the bottom of the first when Hannah Smith reached on a fielder’s choice and Monson followed with her 11th home run of the season to push the Lady Bengals ahead, 2-0.
LSUE added a run in tbe bottom of the second when Howell singled and pinch runner Harlow scored on a sacrifice fly by LeLe Martinez.
After Heather Zumo retired eight of the first nine batter including five strike outs and a walk, Highland scored their only run of the game when Chevelle Sartin doubled and scored off a hit by Hannah Schmidt.
LSUE quickly responded with three runs in the bottom of the fourth, begun when Debarge blasted a solo home run.
Smith kept the rally going with an one-out double and scored when Hannah Carpenter reached on an two-out error.
Carpenter then scored when Bodin reached on an error to push the Lady Bengals up. 6-1.
Highland threatened in the top of the fifth when Cassidy Greer was hit bt reliever Howell and later walked Sartin.
But Howell forced Kami Zimmerman to fly out to centerfielder Bodin to end the inning.
Howell then reached on an error to open the bottom of the frame, advanced on a hits by Abbey Higginbotham and DeBarge before scoring when Munson reached on a bases-loaded error.
With a 7-1 advantage, Howell sealed the Lady Bengals’ win as she retired the final seven Hamilton batters, recording three strike out and a walk.
Zumo went 3.2 innings to open the game allowed one run on three hits with six strikeouts and a walk.
Howell closed the final 3.1 innings as she struck out five and walked two batters.
LeBarge finished 3-for-3 with a home run, while Bodin went 2-for-4 with two doubles.

LSUE 5, JCCC 0
LSUE used a pair of home runs to help score a 5-0 victory of Johnson County in the second day of action at the national tournament.
The Lady Bengals shutout an opponent for the ninth time this season.
Jensen Howell was locked in pitching duel the first three innings against JCCC starter Kerrigan Dixon. Howell fanned the first six batters she faced and induced a ground ball to Lele Martinez to squash a bases loaded threat in the third.
Howell (20-3) picked up her 20th victory of the season after tossing five innings, scattering five hits and one walk while finishing with nine strikeouts.
Madison Monson would finally put the Bengals on the board with solo home run to lead off the fouth inning.
The sophomore’s team-best 12th home run was just the second hit of the game. Abbie Higginbotham would follow two innings later with a three-run home run after the Bengals had two batters reach base on an error and a walk to give LSUE a 4-0 advantage.
Johnson County would counter in the sixth inning, loading the bases with no outs and chasing Howell.
Heather Zumo would get out of the jam with pick off at third and back-to-back strikeouts.
Zumo grabbed her fourth save of the season after two innings of one-hit relief.
Monson would cap off her three-hit day with an insurance RBI, scoring Kelci Bodin with a two-out double.
Monson and Higginbotham notched five of the team’s eight hits in the game.

LSUE 3, HCC 2
Top-ranked LSU Eunice survived a day one scare from Hagerstown Community College, 3-2, to win its first round matchup.
The Lady Bengals managed just three hits off Hagerstown ace Emily Talbert as LSUE would use a pair of sacrifice flies to score all of their runs in the contest.
Heather Zumo would help LSUE escape after pitching six innings to improve to 19-2 on the season.
Zumo scattered two runs off two hits and three walks while striking out seven batters.
Jensen Howell would pitch an inning of relief in the fifth before Zumo re-entered the game for the final two frames.
HCC would score the first run of the game in the second innings after loading the bases off a single and two errors.
The Bengals responded in the bottom half of the frame after Hannah Carpenter led off the inning with a lead-off single.
Kailey LaFere would pinch run for Carpenter and come in to score off a Sara Tate sacrifice fly.
The LAdy Hawks would regain the lead, 2-1, in the fifth inning after capitalizing on another LSUE error and eventually scoring off a sacrifice hit of their own.
LSUE answered right back by getting the first two batters on base, a double steal, and Kelci Bodin's sacrifice fly would allow both Rylie Candella and Lele Martinez to come into score to give the Bengals the lead for good, 3-2.
Zumo would use a sixth inning double play and sitting down the side in order in the seventh to squash the Hagerstown upset bid.

LSUE SID contributed to this story.

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