ABILENE – Olivia Taylor crushed a three-run home run and Talia Neilsen tossed her second complete game in as many days, leading Abilene Christian to a solid 5-1 win and subsequent series sweep of Southern Utah Sunday at Poly Wells Field.

Taylor’s round-tripper was her first as a Wildcat and came on an 0-1 pitch with two outs from Keimon Winston. Scoring on the hit were Caitrin Hoffman and Sammi Shelander.

The score remained 3-0 until the fifth when Jayne Sepulveda broke Neilsen’s shutout bid with a one-out home run down the left-field line. Afterward, the Thunderbirds just managed two more base runners off Nielsen, who posted a 1.50 ERA this weekend (14.0 IP) with eight strikeouts.

“I’m proud of how well the team worked together to come up with three wins this weekend,” said ACU head softball coach Abigail Farler. ” They created and kept momentum all weekend. We saw great pitching performances from our staff and a lot of quality at bats. Defensively, we communicated well and were able to handle the wind with lots of fly balls.”

Nielsen slightly struggled in the early innings, surrendering three hits and two walks through the first two frames, but left all five of those runners stranded. SUU loaded the bases with one out in the first, but Nielsen fought back with a strikeout of Madison Sanders and an easy fly ball to left. The Thunderbirds again put two in scoring position with one away in the second only to watch Nielsen induce another fly ball and register an inning-ending strikeout of Allie Laub, who foul tipped strike three into the mitt of Avery Miloch.

ACU pushed across two insurance runs in the fifth, both of which were unearned. Mercedes Eichelberger and Hoffman began the frame with a walk and single, respectively, and with Miloch at the plate, both runners broke on a 1-0 pitch. SUU backstop Bella Garcia alertly began running Eichelberger back toward third, but her rundown throw ricocheted off the glove of third baseman Emily Gonzalez and into shallow left field, allowing both runners to score. Karli Manney pinch ran for Hoffman on the play.

With a four-run lead to play with, Nielsen went on to retire the Thunderbirds quietly in the sixth and worked around a one-out double in the seventh.

Wildcat pitching finished the three-game series with a 2.00 ERA, a save and 11 strikeouts. 

Four Wildcats batted above .333 for the series. Taylor went 3-for-6 with two runs, two walks and a sacrifice hit along with today’s home run. Hoffman hit .429 with three singles, and Logan Gaspar went 3-for-8 with a double, walk and two RBI.

The Wildcats look to extend their winning streak next Friday an Saturday at Utah Valley.