Megan Landry

The Nicholls softball team got the monkey off its back — finally.

But it was the wrong monkey, the McNeese State monkey.

The other one still haunted the team this weekend at the Southland Conference Tournament.

The Colonels lost in the Finals of the Southland Tournament for the third-straight season this past week, falling to Sam Houston State in the fi nals 2-1 — another close, hard-fought exit for a team that’s been starved to reach the NCAA Tournament in the past several seasons under coach Angel Santiago.

But in the process, the Colonels did fi nally eliminate the Cowgirls from the tournament — the opponent who had long been the thorn in the side of the Colonels in their recent run.

The losses end the Colonels’ season with a 34-22 record, two victories short of their ultimate goal.

“Postseason is the best time of year, so I’m very thankful for every moment of it,” pitcher Megan Landry said. “It’s a time that demands passion and grit from every player, which creates the best atmosphere of play. Although the week didn’t end like we hoped, we left everything on the field, and now, I get to look back on my college career with pride and gratitude.”

The Colonels had their moments on the weekend.

Nicholls opened the tournament on Wednesday with a mercy-rule, 9-0, five-inning victory over Northwestern State, sending the host team into the loser’s bracket for the weekend.

Senior pitcher Megan Landry was lights out for Nicholls in the win, tossing a complete-game shutout, allowing just four hits in 84 pitches — the first of a marathon weekend for the senior pitcher.

In that win, Landry became the all-time winningest pitcher in Nicholls history, recording her 79th career win, surpassing a long-time mark set by Laura Davis who played in Thibodaux from 1982-85.

The Colonels’ offense tattooed Demons’ pitching, plating two runs in both the second and third innings before a five-spot in the fourth blew the game open. Caitlin Garcia did some of the most significant damage, launching a three-run home run in the fourth inning rally. She also had a pair of sacrifice flies in a five-RBI day.

That victory pushed Nicholls into the biggest game of the tournament — a Thursday afternoon date with Sam Houston State in the finals of the winner’s bracket.

The winner of that game would be in the catbird’s seat for the entire tournament and would have to get beaten twice by whoever would emerge from the loser’s bracket.

And it was one hell of a game with Sam Houston winning 2-0 in extra innings.

The Colonels and Bearkats battled one another tooth and nail — one of the more thrilling games of the entire season.

Landry was flawless, retiring Sam Houston in order in the 4th-through-7th innings to give Nicholls a chance.

But Bearkats hurler Lindsey McLeod was just as good, keeping the Colonels off the scoreboard, which sent the game to extra innings in a scoreless tie.

In extras, the Bearkats finally took over in the bottom of the ninth when Brooke Malia launched a walk-off, two-run home run to seal the win. She scored Tiffany Thompson who reached on an error.

That loss pushed Nicholls into a late-night, early-morning game with McNeese where the winner got to battle Sam Houston in the Finals — only this time, having to beat them twice.

The McNeese hurdle wasn’t a big problem. The Colonels started Emily Danehower and also used Alexis LaBure in that game, falling behind the Cowgirls 4-1 in the top of the third inning.

But Nicholls’ bats battered McNeese’s depleted pitching the rest of the game, scoring three in the bottom of the third, four in the bottom of the fi fth and two in the bottom of the sixth to secure a 10-4 win.

Landry pitched in relief in the win, working the final four innings (58 pitches), allowing just two hits.

That win set the stage for round two with Sam Houston, which, unfortunately, had the same result for Nicholls.

Landry was brilliant again, stymying the Bearkats hitters for the first fi ve inning — again in a scoreless tie.

Nicholls looked to get the edge when Amanda Gianelloni launched a solo home run in the top of the sixth inning, but then de ja vu struck again when Thompson and Malia both hit home runs in the bottom of the sixth to secure the conference title for Sam Houston.

Follow Casey on Twitter for more.

Casey Gisclair is the Sports Editor at Rushing Media. A native of Cut Off and graduate of Louisiana State University, Casey is a lifelong sports fan who joined the Houma Times team in Dec. 2009 upon college graduation.

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