Straight no-hitter

MONTICELLO — Kayla Jackson threw her second no-hitter of the season Saturday afternoon in the first game of a scheduled Great American Conference doubleheader against Arkansas Tech and picked up the save in Game 2 as Arkansas-Monticello extended its winning streak to 16 games with a two-game sweep of the Golden Suns, 6-0 and 6-3.

Jackson (19-4) recorded her 102nd career victory for UAM (28-10, 16-2 GAC) as the Cotton Blossoms continue to lead Southeastern Oklahoma State (20-4) and Southwestern Oklahoma State (13-11) in the conference standings.

Maggie Sands scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the first inning. UAM padded the lead with a run in the fifth when Jackson tripled and courtesy runner Kara House of Star City stole home on a double steal. The Blossoms capped the scoring when Sands plated a pair of runs on a fielder’s choice and later scored on an error and Summer Huddleston crossed the plate on a wild pitch in the four-run sixth.

Freshman Katie Slaughter was three outs away from a no-no in the second game before the Suns found a bright spot offensively. Maddie Ronketto led off the seventh with a single and after two more singles to load the bases and an out, UAM coach Alvy Early put Jackson back in the circle to close the door.

“I was really hoping we could both throw no-hitters and leave there with a zero batting average for the day,” Jackson said.

The Blossoms had a chance to close the door in the fourth but failed to score the final two runs to end the game by the eight-run mercy rule as a baserunning miscue forced the affair to continue.

“We got a little sloppy toward the end,” Early said. “If we run the bases right and have an 8-0 game, Slaughter has a no-hitter and never even goes out in the sixth inning. We got a little slack and it cost her the no-hitter, but it didn’t cost us the win.”

Jackson coerced a groundout to Huddleston at second and struck out Ashton Long to complete the four-game sweep, UAM’s third consecutive four-game conference sweep.

Jackson’s performance overshadowed an otherwise quality outing from Arkansas Tech’s Victoria Huie (8-5) in the opener, who surrendered only six hits and fanned two. Only two of the six runs were earned.

Rachel Keeton (5-13) absorbed the loss in Game 2 as the Blossoms earned all five runs before tapping Huie for the final run in relief.

Jackson and shortstop Jennifer Hickman collected two hits each in the second game while Sands, Sara Matthews and Katie Bowman picked up one hit apiece. Hickman said as much as Jackson and Slaughter were doing their part on the mound, improvements at the plate also aided the win streak.

“If I had to judge from the way the season started I would say hitting,” Hickman said. “At first we lost lots and lots of close ballgames because we weren’t producing at the plate and getting runners in. Now, we are actually doing that.”

Beth Johnson, Brittany Eitel, Bowman and Huddleston added hits in the opener.

The Blossoms return the diamond at 1 p.m. Tuesday for a mid-week, nonconference affair against Delta State (Miss.) in a rescheduled game before continuing GAC action next weekend at Southeastern Oklahoma State in Durant.

UAM will finish the conference slate at home against Southwestern Oklahoma State on April 21-22 at Blossom Field as the top three teams take it down to the wire in search of the conference title.

“The way we are playing right now, we have a good chance of winning our games,” Slaughter said. “As long as we play the way we are supposed to, we should win. I think we have our mojo and as long as we keep practicing hard, we will do well in the games.”