MARSHALL, Texas -- Jayme Perez' two-out home run with one runner on base in the bottom of the eighth inning lifted the No. 6 East Texas Baptist Tigers to a 6-4 win against Claremont-M-S in Friday's Game 1 of the Marshall Super Regional.
Perez blasted a 2-1 pitch off CMS relief pitcher Kaylilani Minami deep over the left-centerfield fence to score herself and Mallory Westbrook and move the Tigers (43-7) to within one game of reaching the Division III Women's College World Series.
The teams will meet again Saturday at 3 p.m. ET for game two of the best-of-three series. Should CMS win and even the series, a third game will be played 30 minutes after the completion of game two.
Kelly Jo McLendon (19-1) pitched four innings of one-hit softball in relief of starter Shelby Parker to earn the win for the Lady Tigers, dropping her ERA to 0.90 in the process. The sophomore from Livingston, Texas, won her 12th consecutive decision and remained unbeaten in her last 14 appearances.
Claremont-M-S, champion of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and winner of the Redlands regional tournament, fell to 30-14 with the loss.
Minami (12-7) took the loss for the Athenas in spite of an otherwise well-pitched contest in relief of CMS starter Hayley Schultz, who was lifted with one out in the fifth inning and charged for four unearned runs. Minami struck out two batters and scattered three hits, with her only earned runs coming off Perez' game-ending blast.
The Athenas, ranked No. 22 in the latest National Fastpitch Coaches Association poll, struck first in the top of the third inning when they loaded the bases which set up Katie Savard's bases-clearing double. Savard came home seconds later on the same play when an overthrow from Kaitlyn Hollingshead allowed her to score.
With four-run advantage, Schultz breezed through two more innings but ran into trouble in the bottom of the fifth. The inning started on the wrong foot for the Athenas when Hollingshead doubled down the left-field line to after being given a second chance at bat on a dropped foul ball error.
After getting ETBU's Katy Hill to ground out, Schultz walked pinch-hitter Alexis Padilla and then hit Perez with the first pitch of her at-bat to load the bases. A passed ball by catcher Morgan Beltz finally put the Tigers on the board when Lindsey Vasquez, running for Hollingshead, crossed home plate.
The inning continued to unravel for the Athenas when Alyssa Romero's sacrifice bunt was misplayed by third baseman Carlene Roberts, allowing Mallory Westbrook (running for Padilla) to score without recording an out. The next batter, Jessica Bowden singled to left field, allowing pinch runner Jaycee Hallum to score.
After a walk to Lacey Lindsey reloaded the bases, Schultz then hit Lacy Liles with a pitch to allow Romero to walk home.
The multiple errors in the fifth inning meant that Schultz's four charged runs were all unearned. She struck out three batters and scattered five hits. ETBU's Parker allowed four runs (three earned) over four innings while striking out three.