BaseballNORMAL, Ill. – Phoenix College’s reign as champions of NJCAA Division II Softball came to an end in the midst of brisk conditions at the hands of a team from this local area – the Hawks of Heartland Community College, a school that has only had athletics for two years.

But after just over an hour after it began, in a game played in 30 mile-per hour winds, Heartland had won its first NJCAA Division Championship, dethroning the current five-time champion Bears, 4-1.

Pitcher Hannah Dow’s first inning single with two on scored center fielder Lizzie Andrews, giving HCC (50-8) a fast 1-0 lead. Aggressive defensive fielding by the Hawks kept Phoenix College scoreless for six straight innings.

The winds had baserunners for Phoenix College (57-10) wearing jackets to keep out the cold.

Phoenix BearsIn the bottom of the seventh inning, the Bears scored their lone run, with two out. Catcher Lacy Goodman led off with a single. After shortstop Ashlie Rosenberg and right fielder Alyssa Goldsmith struck out and hit into an out, respectfully, giving Phoenix College a last chance to extend their season, first baseman Dana Goguen reached first on an error by HCC center fielder Andrews. Goodman scored when Goguen advanced to second.

Dow was the winning pitcher for HCC. Brianna Robles took the loss for Phoenix College.

“It was just insane (to be playing) with 30 miles-per-hour winds,” Phoenix College head coach Heinz Mueller said. “(The conditions) took our home run ball away from us. I mean, it really did.

“We’re a home run-hitting team,” Mueller said, pointing to the Bears’ 120 round-trip shots his team has had this season.

NJCAA National Championships“You have to give (Heartland) credit,” Mueller said. “They were hot, they were on (their game). He said had the game been played at the originally-scheduled 2p.m (Pacific) on Friday, even if Heartland had beat them then, the Bears would not have had to play as many games in one day as they did Saturday.

“When they cancelled the game on Friday, we knew that if we lost that game that there would be a long road to haul,” Mueller said.

Mueller said his comments about the cancellations and game stacking should not be thought of as complaining about losing a title his team has held for five years running.

“I don’t want to take anything away from (Heartland),” Mueller said. “But you had to beat us to take us away from that. We weren’t going to lay down. We’ve got a lot of pride. We’ve got a lot of character.”

NJCAAA near day-long rain Friday caused Phoenix College (57-10) to have to play five games on Saturday, starting the day with a win over Kansas’ Johnson County Community College, but then dropping the day’s second game to the Hawks, 13-1. The Bears recovered after that, with Mueller’s Bears blanking Kansas-based Cowley Community College, 5-0, and defeating Kankakee Community College, 4-1.

All-Tournament Team Members: Outfielder Melissa Goldsmith was named to the All-Tournament Team by organizers at the conclusion of the event.

Bears infielder Ashlie Rosenberg earned recognition by tournament organizers, too, being named the tournament’s designated player, while Goodwin was named the tourney’s Best Offensive Player.

By Steve Robinson | May 15, 2009 - 10:46 pm
Posted in Category: NJCAA Softball, Pekin Daily Times

BaseballNORMAL – The Softball season ended on a sour, soggy note for Illinois Central College at Champion Fields here Friday.

Trying to stay alive in the NJCAA Division II Tournament here meant more than a test of physical strength – in some cases, it seemed to want to test aquatic endurance, too, as a morning deluge of rain postponed action until early afternoon. What was to be ICC’s first, and apparently, only, game of the day was scheduled for 10a. m.

ICC CougarsThe first pitch came around 2p.m., forcing head coach Heather Doty and her players to drive back hurriedly from a lunch break to warm up for their first scheduled game of the tournament’s second day against Kansas-based Cowley Community College.

But ICC’s exit from this tournament came quickly, in a rain-swept 4-0 shutout at the hands of Cowley pitcher Jacey Juden. In seven innings, Juden struck out 13 while allowing three hits, and one ICC walk.

ICC pitchers BethAnn Swartz and Taylor Preuitt each got in three innings of work. Swartz allowed five hits and Preuitt three. Each pitcher had two runs scored on her. Preuitt walked two, Swartz none.

In a game played partly in a driving rain that came back shortly after the contest began, Juden singled in the bottom of the first inning scored left fielder Sarah Hooker, giving CowleyCC a fast 1-0 lead. A double by catcher Kashilia Young doubled home shortstop Breayle Tackett in the third inning, increasing Cowley’s lead, 2-0.

NJCAA National ChampionshipsFirst baseman Ashley Spencer led the fifth inning off with a double, then advanced to third on an error and a single by Tackett, increasing CowleyCC’s advantage, 3-0. Young scored when Juden hit into a fielder’s choice, giving Cowley what turned out to be the final advantage.

Although the bad footing in the outfield caused by the rain hindered ICC, and seemingly aided Cowley’s ability to score runs that inning, Doty did not use the poor conditions as an excuse for her team’s loss.

“We did the best that we could,” Doty said. “(Cowley) had to play under these same conditions, too. We just didn’t hit (the ball) into the outfield enough for (conditions) to affect them like it did us.”

Doty said the sudden call-back from tournament officials to come play their first game of the day didn’t really throw her team. “We were kind of prepared for that a little bit, but, we did have a sufficient amount of warm-up time.”

NJCAAICC was the only team in the 16-team field at the NJCAA Division II Tournament that, after Thursday’s opening action, entered the tourney with a record below .500. Following the loss to Cowley, ICC finished the season with a 26-29 record.

“We did a lot of good things,” Doty said of the effort her players showed against Cowley, despite the final score. “I’ve got no regrets. I would not have done anything any differently for this game.

Doty said this season for the Cougars was one in which “everybody learned something. Nobody rolled over.

“You know, we could have rolled over and called it a season back in March (or) the beginning of April,” Doty said. “But nobody did that. Everybody fought (hard). Everybody stuck together.”

Completing her third season, ICC, under Doty, finished the season 26-29. Doty’s overall record at ICC is 80-72

By Steve Robinson | May 14, 2009 - 10:01 pm
Posted in Category: NJCAA Softball, Pekin Daily Times

BaseballNORMAL – Illinois Central College’s Softball team is the only team in the 16-team field at the NJCAA Division II Tournament that, after Thursday’s opening action at Champion Fields, enters the tourney with a record below .500.

Under head coach Heather Doty, the Cougars began the tournament with a 25-27 record. They are still below .500, having split two games by Thursday’s end, but the point seems to be that they are still here. That’s after dropping their opener to Iowa Central College, 13-1, and shutting out their first consolation round opponent, Mercyhurst Northeast, 3-0.

ICC 3, Mercyhurst Northeast 0: Doty admitted that after her team lost the opener to Iowa Central College because “we looked intimidated…we looked scared.”

ICC (26-28) regained their confidence after a lunch break winning what looked to be a measured 3-0 shutout over Erie, Pa.-based Mercyhurst Northeast, 3-0.

ICC CougarsICC pitcher Lindsay Hufeld registered 10 strikeouts, and only allowed the Tritons’ batters just one hit each in the sixth and seventh innings.

A single by ICC third baseman Katie Peek, coupled with a Mercyhurst error allowed ICC right fielder Chelsea Rankin to score the first run of the game, 1-0.

First baseman Brooke Landau made the score 2-0 in the bottom of the third inning, scoring on a sacrifice by catcher Bret Nelson and a fielder’s choice by first baseman Emily England.

With ICC still leading 2-0, Peek tripled, slamming the ball into right field to open the third inning, and then scored on a sacrifice run batted in by left fielder Dana Garber, giving ICC the eventual final score.

“That was awesome,” Doty said of Peek’s opposite field hit. “That helped a ton that she was being aggressive at the plate.”

“In between the two games Thursday, we talked about regrouping and coming back for the second game playing as the team that we are,” Doty said. “I think we got the bugs out in the first game, which helped.

NJCAA National Championships“(Winning pitcher) Lindsay (Hufeld) threw a great game,” Doty said. “Her ball was moving a ton, which helped. We played good defense. We took advantage of opportunities. (Mercyhurst) made a couple errors that we scored on, so that helped a lot.”

Iowa CC 13, ICC 1: Being the only team in the field starting the tourney with a record two games below .500, at 25-27, ICC, under Doty, figured the only direction to head from there was up. Unfortunately, the Cougars ran into Iowa College (60-6), and pitcher Christina Bradley who registered three strikouts, as did her relief after three innings, Cola Danna, who three more strikeouts in a five inning game which Iowa CC won, 13-1 in five innings, dropping ICC to 25-28.

Iowa CC led after one inning, 4-0, in part thanks to a three-run homer over the left field wall by freshman third baseman Brittany Martin. IowaCC would have registered a 13-0 shutout to begin their tournament had it not been for Cougars left fielder Dana Garber’s double with teammate Kaleigh Tapp on base, giving ICC its lone run in a losing cause that ushered Doty’s team into the consolation bracket.

“(Iowa CC) was a very athletic team and we didn’t come out ready to play,” Doty admitted after the first game loss. “(Iowa CC) was hitting everything.

The right-handed Martin’s first inning home run was delivered aiming for the left-hand batter’s box “and she went out and got it and hit it over the fence,” Doty recalled. “They are a good hitting team and they were ready to hit anything that we served up.”

NJCAANot A Fluke ICC Is Here: Doty said after the victory over Mercyhurst that her team has talked about the fact that it is no fluke that ICC is in this tourney. She said her team has even received some inspiration from none other than Lorraine Ramsay, the legendary ICC Softball coach.

“(Our players) were 6- and 7-years old at the end of (her coaching career),” Doty said. “She spoke of the pride and how dominant ICC (used to be). She told (the players that being able to wear that jersey, they should be ‘very, very prideful.’”

BaseballNORMAL, Ill. – Copiah-Lincoln’s Lady Wolves Softball team can now say they tried harder, having become the runner-up in the NJCAA Division II Softball Championship, held at Champion Field here.

Having lost Friday by an 8-5 count to Phoenix College, top ranked in tournament brackets, and its reigning champion for the last four years going into Saturday’s play, Co-Lin head coach Allen Kent said his team wanted “another shot” at the Bears.

On Saturday, Co-Lin knew they got a second shot at Phoenix College, but the Lady Wolves needed to start Saturday by trying to beat the literal hometown team from this area, the Heartland Community College Hawks.

Although HCC has been a part of the Town of Normal for almost 20 years, HCC did not begin an athletic program until last fall with Men’s and Women’s Soccer, debuting Softball and Baseball for the first time this Spring.

Crochet scored the only run Co-Lin needed in the bottom of the seventh inning, on a sacrifice by Rousseau and squeeze play, to shut out HCC, 1-0 Saturday morning.

That win put Co-Lin in the finals against Phoenix College, but that also meant needing to win to claim the championship outright. To do that would require two games with two straight wins since Phoenix College beat Co-Lin once Friday.

But Phoenix College displayed too much muscle in the second game in two days between the two teams, scoring six runs in the fifth inning, beating the Lady Wolves, 9-1. Ten batters came to the plate in that inning, getting five hits, including four singles, and a double by Bears third baseman Ashlie Rosenberg.

Copiah-Lincoln Community CollegeCo-Lin’s game concept of “small ball” – hitting singles to get girls around the bases to score runs, thus confounding opponents – did not get much of a chance to work against Phoenix College sophomore pitcher Patricia Moreno. Moreno registered 12 strikeouts, and contributed to Co-Lin stranding seven runners on base.

Sophomore shortstop Ashley Sykes and sophomore designated player Becca Bailey were named to this year’s All-Tournament Team. Both said they were happy about the honor.

“To be named (for the All-Tournament Team) is a thrill,” Sykes said. “But it is also kind of a shock. I very much enjoyed (this experience).”

“We put all of our effort into the game against Heartland Community College (starting the day) so that we could get to this point (in the championship against Phoenix College), “Bailey said. “We wanted to make school history (by winning the tourney).”

In fact, Co-Lin can be proud of taking second place because, in previous years, the highest any Co-Lin team had gotten was third.

“This was one of the best seasons that any team from our school has ever had,” Kent said after the award ceremony. “Having made it to the National Championship game is something we will take with us always.

“We’re proud to have been here,” Kent said. “We just had a difficult finish (in our last game). Phoenix is a great team, a phenomenal team.”

A Swing, A Miss, A Chance: Lady Wolves freshman utility player Brittany Watts can, someday, look back on this experience and admit she, too, despite an injury, was able to get a swing at the National Championship.

In the beginning of Co-Lin’s seventh inning against the Bears, Kent put Watts, who broke her right pinky in practice after the team arrived here earlier this week, up to bat so that she could at least get the chance to say she played in the National tourney.

The ball missed Watts’ glove and struck her finger, preventing her from being able to throw at all or continue playing in depth, but NCAA rules allow for a player to participate under those conditions provided that the batter finishing the turn at bat claims the umpire’s count that results.

“(Brittany’s) glad to be here, but, you know, I was looking for a way to get her in the game,” Kent said. “I told her if she wanted to swing, she could, and she did, so that she could say she played in the National Championship game.”

Watts swung and missed, leaving an 0-1 count for freshman pitcher Rebecca Rousseau.

NJCAANo New Streaks: Co-Lin hit a lucky 13th win on day one of this tourney Thursday against Delaware Tech. Friday, the Lady Wolves’ luck lasted for just one more game on the day, as the Lady Wolves beat Kansas-based Johnson County Community College, 9-5 in nine innings on the strength of a grand slam homer by second baseman Kayla Crochet.

Co-Lin led 4-3 going into the seventh inning until a two-out blast over the left field fence by JCCC shortstop Lindsey Bawers tied the game, going into the bottom of the innng.

The game was forced into extra innings after JCCC reliever Katie Ford set down Rousseau, Sykes, and Crochet in order.

A single by Karee McDonald in the top of the eighth inning scored outfielder Lindsay Tuter, putting JCCC up 5-4. Co-Lin pitcher Meleah Brown motored home from second base to tie the score at 5-all, then Co-Lin’s pitching, courtesy of Bailey, held forcing JCCC batters to go down in order in their top half of the ninth.

Langley, Rousseau, and Sykes all reached base with no outs in the bottom of the ninth when Crochet came to the plate. Crochet blasted the ball over the center field wall to provide the muscle needed for Co-Lin to win its 14th straight game by a 9-5 count, putting the Lady Wolves just two steps closer to a rematch with Phoenix College.

“I was just trying to get the hit,” Crochet said about her first career grand slam and 11 homer of the season. “I didn’t care if it was a pop-up or not because Emily’s fast. (Regardless of where the ball would have landed), she would have scored.”

“(The home run) was a little shocking,” she said.

Bailey through 137 pitches in the game against JCCC.

But all streaks do come to an end, and Co-Lin’s did against Phoenix College, the reigning champion of this tourney, who before Saturday had taken home four winners’ trophies from here.

Against Phoenix College on Friday, Co-Lin looked to apply their brand of “small ball” against the Bears to do it. But Friday ended with Phoenix College snapping Co-Lin’s winning streak with an 8-5 win. Co-Lin’s streak of 14 straight wins and 21 wins in their last 23 tries had started late in the regular season.

Kent said the winning streak “was good while it lasted,” but he was also philosophical about it ending.

“It was good while it lasted, but (then again,) who better to break our streak than the number one team in the nation?”

BaseballNORMAL, Ill. – Copiah-Lincoln’s Softball team advanced to the quarterfinals of the NJCAA Division II Softball Championship, held at Champion Field here, in a big way, with a 6-0 shutout over Delaware Tech.

As a result of the victory, CLCC had an early wake-up call to take on the winner of a Thursday contest between Michigan’s Oakland Community College and Johnson Community College from Overland Park, Kan. That game was set to start at 10a.m. Friday. It would be the first of two games on the day, with the second game set for 4p.m. at Champion Field.

Lady Wolves pitcher Becca Bailey earned the win, fanning 12 Delaware Tech batters and allowing just two hits, while going 2-for-4 herself with singles in the second and fifth innings.

CLCC (35-11) jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the third inning on a double by shortstop Ashley Sykes, which scored both center fielder Emily Langley who singled, and left fielder Candace Avants, who reached first on an error by Tech shortstop Crystal Spencer.

With one out in the fourth inning, CLCC scored two more runs, thanks to an RBI by freshman first baseman Rebecca Rousseau, scoring catcher Missy Paulina and third baseman Meleah Brown, increasing the Lady Wolves lead to 4-0.

Copiah-Lincoln Community CollegeCLCC got two more runs in the seventh inning for good measure against the 44-4 Roadrunners, courtesy of Sykes scoring on a flyout to center field by Bailey, and Boone singling which scored second baseman Kayla Crochet, leading to the eventual final score.

With matters well in hand, coach Allen Kent opted to give freshman Rousseau a shot at pitching in the seventh inning. In order, Rousseau struck out pitcher Chelsea Walls looking, fanned Tech shortstop Crystal Spencer swinging, and outfielder Kerby Gallo looking.

“It felt good to be given the chance to pitch an inning at Nationals,” Rousseau said. “A first time at Nationals as a freshman…getting an opportunity like that is just great,” Rousseau said. “I just went out there and did what I had to do.”

“I’m very happy with the win,” said winning pitcher Bailey, who pitched six innings before giving Rousseau a shot at pitching in the seventh inning.

“The team always backs me up,” Bailey said about the support her teammates provided. “They always come back and hit the ball. That allows me to continue pitching and keep (the opposition) from scoring.

Bailey said it was important for CLCC to “bring (our) top game because we’re playing the top teams.

“My mind is set to do my job, pitch as hard as I can, make the pitches effective, and work hard,” she said.

NJCAA“We won State, we won regionals, (and) that’s a great feeling,” Bailey said. “And to come here to Nationals is just an amazing feeling to be here.”

“We were able to score,” Kent said. “We were able to steal a few extra bases, (be able to move players) around one at a time, so, we’re still not a power-hitting team, but, you know, we will do whatever it takes.”

Kent said his team has been working on defense against fly balls and pop-ups. He joked that “there are few more trees” back home than he saw here, thus cutting down on a 10-mile an hour wind that gusted periodically to 20 mph throughout the gray day. There had been a threat of rain, but most of what was expected stayed in the lower half of the state.

She’s Visited Here Before: This trip may have been Bailey’s first to Normal as a member of CLCC, but actually, she has been here before – in 2001, as a member of the Louisiana Patriots, a team that participated in an ASA tournament for girls age 16 and under, held here at Champion Fields.

“It was actually very exciting (to be back here),” Bailey said.