By CHRIS WHITAKER
AMERICUS — With a pair of games left in her collegiate career, Mariko Nomura pitched 9.1 innings and allowed three earned runs as Georgia Southwestern split with Albany State on Friday.
The Lady Hurricanes couldn't come back from a 4-0 deficit in Game 1, falling 4-3; and Anna Oswald's RBI-single in the third inning of Game two gave them the lead for good in a 4-2 win.
The Lady Hurricanes ended the season 20-31.
"This season's been very disappointing because expectations were high," said coach Eddie Ward. "In defense of the girls, we knew we had been eliminated from playoff contention, and I did a poor job of having them mentally prepared to play (Friday)."
Nomura (7-19) pitched five innings the first game, allowing two earned runs on 11 hits with four strikeouts; she worked 4.1 innings in the second game and allowed one earned run on two hits.
She finished the year with a 2.86 earned run average and 13 complete games. Ward said the record is not indicative of her performance.
"We didn't have the run support when she's been on the field," he said. "Mariko pitched well enough to be 19-7. She always threw in the tough games. She was emotional (Friday) because it her last college game.
"She worked as hard as any player this year, and she worked harder in bullpen and day-to-day activities in her physical preparation."
Gabby Buck had two of GSW's five hits in the first game, as she finished the year leading the team in batting at .355; she is one of three players who hit over .300.
Albany State broke down in the seventh with a 4-0 lead as GSW used a wild pitch, passed ball and error to score three runs in the frame. But with two on, Oswald hit into a fielder's choice to end the game.
Ward said while the team raised its batting average to .245, it still had too many strikeouts and couldn't execute in close games.
"We were popping bunts up and not getting sac bunts down in crucial situations," he said. "I expect the kids to execute, even with two outs. We didn't execute at the plate like we should, and our pitch selection didn't improve."
Buck and Katie Mueller each had two hits in the second game for
the Lady Hurricanes.
Lyndi Duff tied the game at 1 in the first inning, and GSW took a 3-2 lead in the third. An error in the fifth led to another run and the difference in the game.
Jessica Martin got the save by pitching the final 2.2 innings, allowing no runs on two hits while striking out three.
Martin finished 7-8 with a 2.55 ERA. Ward said this came after Martin didn't do well at hitting her spots earlier in the year.
"I hope she will carry that over to summer," he said. "She's another year older and coming in as a junior, she'll be expected to lead the staff along with Tiffany Milstid."
The Lady Hurricanes finished 5-15 this season, and their 3-1 loss to Columbus State on Wednesday eliminated them from contention.
Ward said at the beginning of the season he expected GSW to be in the top seven in the conference, and a couple of games they shouldn't have lost made the difference.
"We were close — you're talking about one or two more conference wins," he said. "It was a year that started off with a lot of expectations. We won 10 ball games in the month of February and 10 more ball games in March and April. I think we lost six one-run ball games and five two-run ball games. We could have very easily finished in the eighth spot."
GSW graduates three seniors, but will return senior Nichole Griffin, who received a medical redshirt after breaking her collarbone in a boating accident in September. JUCO transfer Robin Butler should be back after being academically ineligible, and Ward said some changes are going to be made.
"It's time to move out of the bottom tier of women's softball," he said.