A sprained rib kept Sarah Mendez from playing in either of Lubbock Christian University’s games during a doubleheader Wednesday.
She still wasn’t 100 percent when she stepped into the circle for the fifth-ranked Lady Chaparrals on Saturday, but that would surely be news to No. 13 St. Gregory’s.
The junior from Fort Worth gave up two hits in a complete game to lead LCU to a 2-1 victory in game one, then came in and closed out a 5-3 win to earn the sweep in a Sooner Athletic Conference series at PlainsCapital Park.
“I didn’t have as much speed as I usually have and I just had to work the ball in and out,” Mendez said. “My team pushed me through it. I knew they needed me just as much as I needed them.
Mendez gave up one run in the opener, an RBI single by Luisa Bar in the first inning to give St. Gregory’s an early lead. She didn’t allow another hit the rest of the way, striking out five batters and walking only one.
Mendez inherited two runners when she was called on with one out in the fifth inning of game two, but got the next two hitters to fly out and avoided damage.
She loaded the bases in the seventh after two walks and two singles, but struck out pinch hitter Allison Conyers to end the game and earn her fifth save of the season.
“She battled,” coach Daren Hays said. “She didn’t have her best stuff all day, especially in the second game. But I feel pretty good about her being out there because she’s such a competitor.”
The Lady Chaps improved to 47-5 overall and 16-3 in the SAC. They can claim at least a share of the conference championship with a sweep of Northwestern Oklahoma State in the season finale at 1 p.m. today.
If Oklahoma City wins its final two games, the Stars would share the championship and earn the top seed at the SAC tournament because they swept LCU in March.
Saturday’s sweep was an important resume builder for LCU, which has all but locked up an at-large bid to the NAIA tournament but can improve its seeding with quality wins.
“We’re playing for seeding,” Hays said. “Last year we were the seventh seed in the national tournament and the difference between seven and one or two is huge. We have to concentrate in games like this and we have to win.”
That made the losses troubling for St. Gregory’s, which likely needs a strong finish and a solid showing at the conference tournament to earn an at-large bid, coach Heather Shanahan said.
“We’ve always played Lubbock really well,” she said. “We think we match up well. They just had more timely hits than we did.”
Brittany Kent had the game-winning hit for the Lady Chaps in the fifth inning of game one, scoring Frenship product Maddie Johnson.
LCU cleanup hitter Kim Frazier went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts in the opener and bounced back with two hits and a first-inning RBI in game two to put the Lady Chaps up early.
Johnson added two runs and gave LCU the lead for good in the fourth with an RBI bloop single to shallow left-center field.
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LCU 2, ST. GREGORY’S 1
SGU 100 000 0 — 1 2 0
LCU 001 010 x — 2 4 0
Frazier, Conyers (5) and Pacheco. Mendez and Coats. W—Mendez (17-1). L—Frazier (18-6).
LCU 5, ST. GREGORY’S 3
SGU 000 200 1 — 3 8 2
LCU 200 300 x — 5 7 1
Roscoe, Conyers (1) and Bacon. Longorio, Mendez (5) and Coats. W—Longorio (13-3). L—Roscoe (9-2). S—Mendez (5). Records: SGU 41-11, 13-10; LCU 47-5, 16-3.