Lumberjacks Get Set to Host Wildcats in Weekend Series

By: Peter Trainor, Student Assistant for Strategic Communications

Stephen F. Austin vs. Abilene Christian University 

Date: Friday, April 12th & Saturday, April 13th Doubleheader

Times: Friday: 6:00 p.m. CST, Saturday: 12:00 p.m. & 2:30 p.m. CST

Live Stream: ESPN+

Stadium: SFA Softball Field 

Series: SFA Leads 16-14

NACOGDOCHES, Texas.– The Stephen F. Austin’s Softball Team (12-30, 5-9) returns home following a midweek doubleheader in Arlington as they will play host to the visiting Abilene Christian Wildcats (13-23, 5-9) for a three-game weekend series at SFA Softball Field.

Last Series at a Glance for SFA:

The Lumberjacks took a short trip to Arlington to faceoff against WAC opponent University of Texas at Arlington in a midweek doubleheader against the Mavericks. SFA stunned the Mavericks in game one with a three-run top of the seventh inning to tie the game at five before claiming an eventual 6-5 win in 10 innings. The Mavericks would claim the nightcap of the doubleheader with a 4-1 win as the two schools would split the midweek doubleheader.

Flare for the Dramatics:

The Lumberjack softball program has kept their fans on the edge of their seats the last few games as in three of their last four games, SFA has scored a run in the final inning of the game to claim a win. The ‘Jacks got it all started in game one of the doubleheader against Tarleton with a walk-off 11th inning hit courtesy of Ellie Vance, before sweeping the doubleheader with a second straight walk-off thanks to the bat of Madison Nguyen. SFA continued their heart-pounding stretch of games into their midweek doubleheader against UTA as SFA rallied from a 5-2 deficit in the top of the seventh, to tie the game at five and later take the lead in the 10th inning in an eventual 6-5 win over the UTA Mavericks.

Three is the Magic Number:

The Lumberjack offense appears to be in midseason form as in six of their last seven games SFA has tallied at least six hits, and are coming off one of their best offensive showings this season as they tallied 12 hits in game one of the doubleheader against UTA marking their fifth game this season with double-digit hits in a game. However, where the Lumberjack offense truly stands out is with their ability to find gaps in the outfield as they have tallied 11 triples this season as a team, tied with the most in the WAC so far this season. Lexi Benson has gone triple crazy this season as she has tallied six triples on the year, tied for most in the nation currently. Joining Benson in the triples category this season are Ellie VanceMadison NguyenMallory WebbChloe Reneau, and Kaylee Paul as all five players have a triple of their own this season.

Pineywoods’ Pesky Pitching:

The Lumberjack pitching staff continues to give opposing hitters fits as the trio of Alexis TelfordBrooke Gainous, and Aydenne Brown have formed a three-headed monster in the SFA rotation this season. SFA’s pitching staff currently has the third lowest era as a staff in the WAC and have kept opposing hitters on their heels as they have struck out 177 batters as a group which is good for second most in the WAC this year. Aydenne Brown continues her “ace” status of the Lumberjack rotation as she leads the team in era (3.58), innings pitched (92.0), and strikeouts (77), while limiting opposing hitters to just a .227 batting average against. However, Alexis Telford and Brooke Gainous should not be overlooked in the rotation as they have formed a deadly duo in addition to Brown this season. Alexis Telford has been a true workhorse for the ‘Jacks as she has thrown six complete games, tossing 87 innings, while punching out 52 hitters this season in addition to playing at first base occasionally and totaling 41 at-bats as a hitter. Brooke Gainous has showcased superb control this season as she has allowed just 10 walks this season, and has allowed three or fewer runs in five of her last six starts.

Don’t Blink or You Might Miss Them:

Speed is the name of the game with the SFA lineup as they have totaled 33 stolen bases as a team this season. Madison Nguyen has been a catcher’s worst nightmare all season long as she is a perfect 9-9 on stolen bases, while Mallory Webb and Ellie Vance have showcased their blazing speed as both have six stolen bases as well this season. Lexi BensonChloe Reneau, and Kaylee Paul have formed a terrific trio on the basepaths as they all have three stolen bases this season, while Ja’Aira FletcherKylie Bishop, and Brittany Coe should not be forgotten about as all three have also added a stolen base of their own on the campaign.  

Showing Off on Defense:

The Lumberjack defense has a knack for making hard plays look routine on defense as they continue to add jaw-dropping defensive web gems to their season total. Following a defensive masterclass in the weekend series against Tarleton, the SFA defense added a couple more WAC Top Play worthy snags on defense in the second game of the doubleheader against UTA. In the bottom of the fourth, Madison Nguyen continues to show her unlimited range in left field as she fully extended for a diving catch on a ball hit to shallow left field, while Ellie Vance added a gold-glove-worthy play of her own in the bottom of the sixth as she snatched a hot shot headed for center field by fully extending to snag the ball midair to rob another Maverick hitter of a for-sure single.

Home Sweet Home:

SFA has enjoyed playing at home this season in the friendly confines of SFA Softball Field as they have won seven games at home and will look to build off their last home series in which they took two of three games from Tarleton State. In all three games against Tarleton at home, SFA totaled at least seven hits and have nine games this season where they have at least seven hits at home. SFA has been able to find other ways to create traffic on the basepaths as they have recorded at least one walk in 13 of their 16 home games. The Lumberjack pitching has been equally dominant at home as they have allowed two or less runs in 11 of their 16 home games this season and have struck out at least six hitters in six of their home games.

Cruising in Conference:

Ellie VanceLexi Benson, and Madison Nguyen have been right at home hitting in conference this season as all three have totaled double-digit hits in conference play this year. Vance and Nguyen have been stuffing the stat sheet with hits ever since conference play began as both have 13 hits in conference play this season while combining for 31 total bases between the two. Lexi Benson has totaled 11 hits of her own so far in conference, while recording a pair of triples and drawing five walks. Hope Lusk and Alexis Telford have come up clutch for SFA with runners in scoring position as both have recorded five RBIs so far in conference play.

Keeping Up with the ‘Jacks: Season Stats Edition:

Emily Land continues to pace the Lumberjacks in batting average as she sports a .314 batting average this season, while leading the team in doubles with five, and tying for the team lead in RBIs with 12 with Lexi BensonMadison Nguyen continues to be a hitting machine for SFA as she has tallied a team-high 39 hits this season while driving in 11 runners of her own, and has been the model of consistency as she has started in 41/42 games this season. Lexi Benson continues to hold down her spot of the power bat in the SFA lineup as she leads the team in ops (.783), slugging percentage (.412), triples (six), and has drawn a team-high 16 walks this season. Meanwhile, Ellie Vance always finds a way to make contact with the ball no matter the count or situation as she has struck out just five times this season in 106 at-bats, while ranking second on the team in hits with 31 on the campaign. Emily Land joined Alex Dubose in the 100-putout club this season as the two have combined for 233 putouts, while Ellie Vance and Chloe Reneau have locked down the middle infield spots for SFA with a combined 104 assists.

Wildcats at a Glance:

The Abilene Christian Wildcats will make the trip to Nacogdoches looking to snap a mini two-game losing skid. The Wildcats will conclude their six-game road trip in Nacogdoches. In their most recent game, the Wildcats lost the rubber match to the Southern Utah Thunderbirds in an offensive battle as the Thunderbirds won 10-6 in the series finale. The Wildcats are led by Head Coach Abigail Farler who is entering her fifth season as the Wildcats head coach and has totaled 182 career wins as a head coach after coming to ACU from Corban University.

Kaydee Bennett has been a do-it-all player for ACU this season as her .453 batting average ranks her second among all WAC players, while she has totaled five triples, and swiped 13 bases this season in addition to crushing four homeruns. Olivia Marble has formed a deadly duo with Bennett on the basepaths as she leads the Wildcats with 15 stolen bases this year while her 14 doubles this season ranks her second in the WAC and has her ranked 14th nationally in doubles. Sammie Shelander has taken advantage of her RBI opportunities this season as she leads the team in RBIs with 25 on the year, adding on four homeruns, and hitting for a solid .358 average.  

Ella Beeman leads the Wildcats pitching staff with her 4.76 era this season as she has thrown 60.1 innings and struck out 22 hitters on the year. Lina Russo has been busy in the circle for ACU this season as she has appeared in 21 games and has started in 14 of them, throwing five complete games, and pitching a team-high 74.1 innings while punching out 48 hitters. Talia Nielsen rounds out the ACU pitching staff as she has thrown four complete games this year in 46.2 innings while only allowing 17 free passes this season.

Welcome Back to Nac:

This weekend’s series will feature the 31st-33rd games against these two storied programs. However, in the past five years, this will only be the second time the Wildcats have made the trip to East Texas and SFA Softball Field. The Wildcats last came to Nacogdoches in 2022 and won 2/3 over SFA. However, in their most recent meeting the Lumberjacks bats went on full display in Abilene as they defeated the Wildcats 10-0 in five innings to close out the three-game series against ACU.

By: Peter Trainor, Student Assistant for Strategic Communications