Lions 2-0 in Sunday opener

Ryan Scott, Sports Editor

The day may have been the first of February, but it was all about December at the John Cain Family Softball Field.

December Rivers and Aundria Romero are in the record books as they provided the sparks needed for the Lions to win their opening day game and first game of a double-header in strong fashion 3-0 over St. Edward’s University.

After Romero had shut down the Hilltoppers on a four-hitter, Rivers closed it out with a game-winning 3-run homer in the sixth inning to give the Lions their first regular season win of their inaugural season of women’s softball.

Following the ceremonial first pitch by Texas A&M University- Commerce President Dan Jones, the Lions women’s softball team, the first in school history, went to work.

In the first game of a doubleheader, Romero announced her presence immediately, with the first six batters she faced not reaching first. The game was hotly contested as it was scoreless going into the sixth inning.

In the top of the sixth, the Lions found themselves in a jam, with the bases loaded with Hilltoppers and only one out. However, a sacrifice bunt forced the runner at home, followed by a foul ball caught in the dugout on an amazing play by Luci Ponce got the Lions out of the jam.

The momentum carried into the bottom of the frame, as the Lions came out swinging. A leadoff double by Luci Ponce followed by a walk to Romero, set the stage for Rivers, who took a 3-2 pitch deep to right-centerfield for the winning three-run homer. The home run signified the first runs scored in Lions softball history, as well as the first home run in Lions softball history.

But the Lions were not out of the woods yet, as the Hilltoppers made it interesting in their final frame, putting two runners on base before finally being put away, giving the Lions their first win in program history.

Romero’s outdueled Sarah Debrow, who is the two-time reigning Heartland Conference Pitcher of the Year. Romero walked three and struck out three in the win.

The second game immediately saw a change from the low scoring pace, as both teams scored in the opening inning. The Lions did a good job of capitalizing on the Hilltoppers’ mistakes, with SEU finishing the game with four errors. The game was tightly contested until the Lions began to break the game open in the fourth, scoring five unanswered runs.

After some wild pitching in the first few frames, Lions pitcher Selena Rima was able to settle down and more effectively stifle the Hilltoppers’ offense. After giving up a final run in the top of the seventh, Rima finished giving up four runs (two earned), on seven hits with one walk and two strikeouts.

On her performance on the day, Rivers was ecstatic about the outcome. “It felt so exciting out there,” Rivers said. “I really can’t explain how it feels.”

When asked about her game-winning home run, she said, “It felt good off the bat, but I really couldn’t tell how far it would go. I didn’t realize it was going over until I was around first base. I couldn’t believe it was really happening.”

“We’ve practiced and trained a lot together,” Rivers said. “We just have to take this momentum and keep pushing for the next game.”

Coach Richie Bruister was proud of his team’s work ethic, saying that they “expect to win.”

“Building this program has been a lot of work,” Bruister said. “And this outcome couldn’t be better.”

Bruister believes that the Lions match up well with other teams in the region.

“We went up against the Heartland Conference Pitcher of the Year and beat her,” Bruister said. “We beat a good team and I think we can play strong against a lot of other teams.”

In the first game, Ponce (2B), Rivers (HR), Danielle Guerra, Magen Lynch and Romero each had on hit.

In the second game Baylea Higgs (2-3), Romero (2B, 2-4), Rivers (2B, 2-4), Kylene Hatton, Lynch (3B), Johnna Sturm, Tylelr Oppenheim, Monica Cherry each one hit.

The Lions will look forward to their next contests, as they will host the inaugural Lion Classic Tournament which will be held at the John Cain Family Field. The Lions will play four games in two days, with two games each against Southern Nazarene University and Northeastern State University. Last season the two teams finished with records of 19-34 and 29-30, respectively

The Lion Classic Tournament, beginning with two games on Friday, Feb. 6, at 12:15 p.m. and 4:45 p.m., with two games on Saturday Feb. 7, at the same times.