CMS Finishes 2nd In Top 25 Leadoff Classic

CMS Finishes 2nd In Top 25 Leadoff Classic

The CMS softball team came in second at the prestigious NFCA Division III Leadoff Classic in Columbus, Georgia.  The tournament, a Top 25, invitation-only format, brings together the best Division III softball teams in the country.  It is widely considered the premier softball tournament in America and pits former National Champions, Regional Champions and Conference Champions from all over the country.

This year, 28 teams competed in three games of pool play, followed by three games of elimination play.  Records in pool play determined placement into one of four elimination brackets, the most competitive being the Gold Bracket. 

The Athenas went 3-0 in pool play, beating 7th ranked Christopher Newport 3-0, 23rd ranked SUNY-Cortland 8-7, and DePauw 7-3.  Their unbeaten record put them in the elite GOLD Bracket with the hottest teams in the tournament.

The Athenas began bracket play beating 25th ranked, 2010 National Champions East Texas Baptist University 4-3.  In their next contest, they no-hit 9th ranked, 2007 and 2011 National Champions Linfield College 2-0.  Unfortunately, the squad fell short in the Gold Championship Game to 11th ranked Trine University 5-4.

The weekend was full of great team play, outstanding performances, clutch hitting and equally sharp defensive play.  Sophomore pitcher Hayley Schultz threw 31.1 innings over five games, amassing 34 strike outs, while giving up only three walks.  Schultz' no hitter against Linfield College will be one of the strongest pitching performances in the 2013 Division III Softball season.

Her shut-out of 7th ranked Christopher Newport to start the Athenas' run in pool play was equally impressive.  Over five games and 31.1 innings, Schultz held some of America's best lineups to a collective .192 batting average.  In fact, she recorded more strike outs than hits allowed.  She gave up 1 triple and 4 doubles, and has not given up a home run this season.

Throughout the tournament, steady defense behind Schultz was critical.  Teammates Megan Latta at short and Harmony Palmer at second anchored the field, while Mikayla O'Neal was nearly flawless at first and third base, as was Janelle Shiozaki in rightfield.  Morgan Beltz secured the dish framing Schultz' pitches like a seasoned veteran.

Offensively, the Athenas outscored their opponents 28-18, outhit them 44-35, outstole them 6-5, walked more 22-5, and struck out less 32-42.  Tara Robinson and Harmony Palmer led the attack.  They combined for 13 of CMS' 28 runs and 19 of the Athenas' 44 hits.  Robinson finished the tournament with a .526 average and a .625 OB%.  Palmer finished at .429 with a .500 OB%. 

Timely hitting, bunting and clutch RBIs were recorded by several others with Janelle Shiozaki recording 5 RBIs.  Megan Latta, Carley Roberts each drove in four runs, while Marie Bradvica and Mikayla O'Neal made major contributions as well.

This was CMS' first invitation ever to this Top 25 tournament.  The next Division III Leadoff Classic will be in 2016.  If all goes well, steady play and continued development will put this year's freshmen class back in Georgia their senior year. 

SCIAC play resumes at home this Friday against La Verne with the first game starting at 2pm.