Softball Eagles Advance to NAIA Championship Round
Claremore, Okla. – The sixth ranked Williams Baptist College softball squad came into Wednesday with its back against the wall, needing two wins to advance to the NAIA National Championship Round. With solid pitching, defense and timely hitting the Lady Eagles obliged by beating bracket host Rogers State twice, 4-1 and 3-0.
"We talked about being resilient, we talked about trust, and we talked about having heart. All of the above was on display from our girls. Rogers State is a great team and to beat them on their home field is huge for us," said Head Coach Eric Newell.
Shelby Anderson took to the circle in game one knowing a defeat would end Williams' championship dreams. However, she remained composed and pitched a complete game. She allowed one unearned run on seven hits. The win improved her record to 21-2 on the season.
"Coming into the game I felt good. I knew we had to win and I was confident, calm and relaxed," said Anderson.
There was little semblance of offense early in the contest as both pitchers seemed to command the hitters in the first two innings. In the bottom of the third Brittany Merritt stepped to the plate and laced a double into the gap to get a WBC rally started. Felicia Woodard followed that up with a single and Lauren Sweeten hit a sacrifice fly to center, allowing Merritt to score.
Rogers State answered with a run of its own in the fourth after an error and double. That run would be the only one to cross for the Hillcats. Anderson kept the hitters at bay, producing 13 ground ball outs in the contest.
With the scored tied at one going into the fifth Merritt hit her second double of the contest. Following walks to Anderson and Sweeten, Callie Brooks came to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded.
Brooks came through with a line drive single off the third baseman's glove.
"Brooksie came up huge for us, it seemed like every time she came to the plate she drove in a run," said Newell.
Following Brooks, Callie Simmons came in and hit a pinch-hit single up the middle to drive in two more runs.
This gave the Lady Eagles a 4-1 lead. RSU posed a threat in the seventh with the tying run in the on-deck circle, but Felicia Woodard chased a long fly ball and made the catch as she slammed into the wall, giving WBC the victory.
The win in game one meant game two would decide the winner of the Rogers State Opening Round Bracket.
It took little time for Williams to scrape up some runs in game two. After Woodard lined out, Sweeten and Anderson hit back-to-back singles, bringing Brooks to the plate. The freshman did not disappoint as she hit a rocket over the left field fence giving the Lady Eagles a 3-0 lead.
"I knew I hit it hard but did not realize it went over the fence until I rounded first. I knew I had to bring it during this tournament and I regained focus and it allowed me to succeed here. Our team chemistry and confidence has been huge," said Brooks.
Karisa Hendrix took to the circle for Williams and pitched a gem. She threw a complete game, allowing five hits. The flamethrower struck out four hitters on her way to avenging yesterday's loss. The win improved her season's record to 23-4.
"I didn't want today to be the end of my career. I want to keep going and play for the national championship. Having Shelby pitch in the first game helped us a lot. Our team really came together this week and pulled together. We could not have won these two games without the whole team being together," said Hendrix.
The win advanced the 44-7 Lady Eagles to the NAIA National Championship round in Columbus, Ga. The tournament will be made up of the final 10 teams and be played May 24-30. Williams is ranked sixth in the NAIA.
Felicia Woodard summed it up for WBC, noting, "I have cried all day and now that we won I can't even bring a tear out because I am so happy."
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