In an historical program first, the CMS Softball program has qualified for the NCAA Division III National Championship tournament. The first round of the tournament begins on Thursday, May 7 at East Texas Baptist University in Marshall, Texas.
This great news comes on the heels of an exciting SCIAC post-season tournament last weekend. The tournament, hosted by the University of Redlands, began Friday morning with the Athenas taking on their rivals, the University of La Verne. One defensive half allowed the Leopards to plate three in what would be the decisive inning of the game, leaving the Athenas with a 1-4 loss to kick them immediately into the loser's bracket.
Not ready to go home, the squad took the field later that afternoon against Whittier College in the first elimination game of the tournament. In an offensively explosive outing that included 11 hits (including four doubles) in just four offensive halves, the Athenas put the Poets away 9-0 in 4½ innings of play.
Later that afternoon, in the winner-winner game, Redlands triumphed over La Verne, setting up the second elimination game of the tournament Saturday morning between CMS and the Leopards. And that is exactly where the fun began.
The game was tense and tight from the first pitch, but the visiting Athenas were able to scratch out a run in the top of the second. The game was scoreless until the bottom of the sixth when a two-out defensive fluke allowed the Leopards to put a runner on third. She was plated one batter later to tie the game at one.
The Athenas responded in the top of the seventh taking the lead on freshman Michelle Brody's [(Haworth, NJ), pictured left] gap double that scored freshman Megan Morris (Ridgewood, NJ). Two walks in the bottom of the seventh allowed the Leopards to tie the game at the end of regulation.
The International Tie Breaker rule was not in effect because it was a conference tournament and the game continued for another six full innings. The Athenas loaded the bases with no outs two innings in a row and could not score. However, their resolve was evident, if not palpable. In a 13-inning error-free effort, the squad played "sudden death" defense holding the Leopards scoreless for six innings.
In the top of the 13th, a lead-off walk to freshman Emily Lopez (Fresno) was followed by a beautifully executed sacrifice bunt by freshman Rebecca King [(Bellevue, WA), pictured right]. With Lopez on second with one out, sophomore Chelsea Baker hit the ball hard, unfortunately right at the centerfielder bringing up Michelle Brody with another opportunity for heroics. And once again, she delivered. Singling to center, Lopez scored what would be the winning run of the 13 inning, 3 hour contest.
Prior to the tournament, Brody had started two games all season. And in a story for the ages, she got the shot she had prepared for all season and took mighty advantage of it showing exactly what she was capable of. For the tournament, she batted .429 with an on-base percentage of .556, making four put-outs, seven assists and zero errors. It was the stuff softball dreams are made of.
Three other Athenas had break-out weekends offensively leading the squad to a second place finish after eliminating Whittier and La Verne. King led all hitters batting .462 with an on-base percentage of .500. Senior Jessica Vaughn (Placerville) batted .429 with an on-base percentage of .500, while Emily Lopez batted .357, while getting on base at a .400 clip.
The Athenas' defensive execution was extraordinary as the team fielding percentage on the weekend was .964 committing only five errors in four games, most notably none in the dramatic 13-inning battle to advance to the championship game.
The Athenas leave for Texas Wednesday morning with their first game scheduled for 12 pm on Thursday. See the web-site at host institution East Texas Baptist University for more details and immediate tournament results at www.etbu.edu.