ST. GEORGE, UTAH – After a wild and entertaining win over Lake Land College, Wallace State’s softball team was on the brink of one of the top upsets in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division I National Championship late Thursday night.
Southern Idaho didn’t cooperate, rallying for a seven-run seventh inning, and Wallace State’s season ended well past midnight Central time with an 11-6 loss at the Canyons Complex.
Nursing a 6-4 lead in the top of the seventh, 11th-seeded Wallace State couldn’t keep the 5th-seeded Golden Eagles from adding to their national-best home run total. Southern Idaho hit a pair of three-run home runs, hindering Wallace State from advancing to Friday’s quarterfinal round.
Wallace State, which was seeking its third NJCAA Division I national title, closes the season with a 47-13 record after a pair of gut-wrenching losses. The Lions lost their tournament opener in extra innings and nearly pulled off two victories on Thursday night.
“It was nice to win one game. That hasn’t happened for us here since after the last national championship. We asked the team to change the mindset about us in this tournament and we certainly did that. We laid a great foundation for teams that will come back out here the next few years, and you can look back as this as the beginning of the ripple effect,” said Wallace State coach A.J. Daugherty. “I’m disappointed we didn’t achieve more in the tournament, but I couldn’t be more proud of the fight we put up in this tournament.”
Wallace State was making its fourth straight national tournament appearance and 12th overall.
Wallace State opened Thursday with a wild 15-13 triumph over Lake Land (Ill.) College in an elimination game. The Lions overcame a 3-0 deficit for the second consecutive day and eventually broke the game open with an eight-run fifth inning, highlighted by two-run single from Caroline Burns and a two-run homer by Charlee West – her 14th of the season. Katie Burden and Sidney Edwards also had run-scoring hits in the frame.
Wallace State, which pounded out 20 hits, led 15-8 heading into the bottom of the sixth before Lake Land put together a five-run inning to trim its deficit to 15-13.
Neither team scored in the seventh, putting a bow on a 3-hour, 15-minute affair.
Burns finished 3-for-5 with four RBIs and two runs scored, while West was 3-for-4 with the homer, double and three RBIs for Wallace State.
Tanner Robertson went 3-for-5 with two RBIs for the Lions, Keeli Bobbitt finished 2-for-4 with a solo homer, two runs scored and a stolen base; Alysia Anderson had a pair of hits and two RBIs and Burden was 2-for-2 with two RBIs. Kalynn Holcomb added an RBI single and walked twice, Taylor Goodpastor singled and scored and Megan Hill and Morgan Weatherwax each had a pinch-hit single.
Wallace State carried the momentum into the nightcap against Southern Idaho.
The Lions controlled an early 1-0 lead in the first on a Burns’ RBI double and extended it to 5-0 in third, scoring all four runs with two outs. Burns began the scoring surge with a single and West followed with a walk. Holcomb drove both of them in with a two-run double, and Burden added a mammoth two-run shot to left field for a 5-0 advantage.
Southern Idaho scored a run in the fourth on a solo homer and trimmed its deficit to 5-4 in the sixth on a three-run double.
Wallace State added a run in the bottom of the sixth before Southern Idaho rallied in the seventh. Melanie Groenewegen and Siearrah Anderson hit the three-run homers in the decisive seven-run seventh for the Golden Eagles.
For Wallace State, Burns went 3-for-3 with an RBI. Bobbitt, Burden and Holcomb each had multiple hits.
Wallace State starter Madison Grant struck out five in her final outing for the Lions.
It was the final Wallace State games for the following sophomores: Burns, West, Robertson, Grant, Jodie Farnetti and Taylor Stalnaker. Five of the six sophomores were a part of 86 wins and two Alabama Community College Conference (ACCC) championships in their careers.
“Three of the sophomores stuck with Sallie Beth (Burch) and I during the coaching transition two summers ago and that’s a big deal to us. It’s something we’ll always appreciate them for. They’ll never be able to comprehend the positive effect they’ll have on this program for years to come. They are all six good ballplayers, but more importantly outstanding people. I would take those six on my team any day of the week. We will miss them dearly,” Daugherty said.
For more information about Wallace State athletics, visit www.athletics.wallacestate.edu.
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