The Lumberjacks 2024 Season in Review

A new era of SFA softball began this season under first-year head coach Jeff Jackson who came to SFA from Odessa College following the resignation of former Head Coach Richie Bruister. Following the departure of many notable graduating seniors after the 2023 season including the Lumberjack career homerun record holder in Gaby Garcia, the Lumberjacks were picked to finish fourth in the preseason coach’s poll.

The Lumberjacks season got started at the Bearkat Classic where they played games against Wichita State and UNLV, however, weather would get the last say in the Lumberjacks opening weekend as two games were canceled, and one game was called early due to weather. The Lumberjacks returned home for their home opener and opened up their home slate with a bang as they claimed a 4-3 walk-off win over Northwestern State thanks to an Amiah Galcatcher walk-off single.

Following a stretch of close hard-fought losses, the Lumberjacks would explode for a 10-run bottom of the sixth inning against the Sam Houston Bearkats at home to turn a 5-1 deficit into an 11-5 win as they recorded their second-highest hit total of the season with 13 hits against the ‘Kats in the win. It marked the first time in over eight years the Lumberjacks had scored double-digit runs in a single inning, which ironically last came against Sam Houston. SFA would travel to Denton to participate in the UNT Invite and came away with a pair of impressive wins as they put up a 13-spot against the University of New Mexico Lobos in a commanding 13-1 win, before finishing the second day of the invite with an impressive 1-0 win over the high-powered Minnesota Gophers behind a powerful performance from Aydenne Brown who pitched a complete game shutout where she allowed just four singles, issued no walks, and struck out three batters in the win to secure her first win as an SFA Lumberjack pitcher.

The Lumberjacks would sweep a midweek doubleheader in dominating fashion over the visiting Texas Southern Tigers by outscoring the Tigers 15-1 over the two games to help snap a losing streak. Conference play saw the Lumberjacks play competitively in every series as they tallied eight one-run losses in conference play and recorded at least one win in seven out of nine conference series on the season. Arguably the highlight of conference play for the ‘Jacks was when they rallied for back-to-back walk-off wins against Tarleton State at home. The Lumberjacks would fight valiantly until the very last out of the season, however, would fall just short of making the WAC Tournament in Seattle and ended Coach Jackson’s first year in the purple and white with a 16-39 overall record and a 9-17 conference record. The record for SFA, however, is deceiving as they played every game and every opponent to the last out as evidenced by the fact SFA suffered 20 losses by two or fewer runs this season as the Lumberjacks boasted one of the best rotations in the WAC this season.

The Lumberjacks pitching rotation got their dues this season as they won WAC Pitcher of the Week on three separate occasions this season. Aydenne Brown had a memorable first season with SFA after transferring to the Pineywoods from New Mexico State, as she won WAC Pitcher of the Week twice this year on February 26th and March 18th. Meanwhile, Brooke Gainous put up an equally impressive 2024 campaign as she was also named WAC Pitcher of the Week on April 22nd while recording the lowest ERA on the team.

Following the end of the season, Brooke Gainous and Aydenne Brown got some well-deserved recognition as both received All-WAC Post-Season votes for their outstanding seasons in the circle for SFA, as they helped form a terrific trio with Alexis Telford that saw the Lumberjack pitching staff post a 3.71 team ERA good for third lowest in the WAC. All three starters posted an ERA of 3.51 or lower while all three pitched a minimum of 94 innings and all three posted an ERA under 3.00 in conference play. All three played critical roles in the pitching success for SFA this season as Gainous led the team with her 3.05 ERA, Telford pitched a team-leading 115.2 innings, while Brown led the team with strikeouts with 89. The Lumberjack defense made countless jaw-dropping plays on defense to help back up the strong pitching this season and was most notably highlighted by Emily Land winning WAC Top Play of the Week for her sensational leaping grab in foul territory against Lamar.  

Ellie Vance finished her successful first season with the Lumberjacks by leading the team in batting average with a healthy .306 average, while only striking out five times in 144 at-bats. Madison Nguyen locked down the leadoff spot for SFA this season and did not disappoint as she knocked a team-high 47 hits, while also going a perfect 11-11 on stolen bases. Lexi Benson brought the pop for the ‘Jacks this season as she tallied four doubles, six triples which led the team and tied her for fourth most in the nation, and led the team in both RBIs (15) and walks (21), while Mikaelah Burkland crushed a team-high six doubles this year. With the conclusion of the 2024 season for the Lumberjacks, they will say goodbye to their seven graduating seniors in Madison NguyenEmily LandAydenne BrownBrittany CoeLexi BensonMallory Webb, and Alex Dubose whom we wish nothing but the best in their future endeavors and thank them for their contributions to the SFA Softball program over their respective careers.

By: Peter Trainor, Student Assistant for Strategic Communications