Lady Wolves 2nd in nation

Published 5:00 am Monday, May 19, 2008

Copiah-Lincoln’s Lady Wolves softball team can now say theytried harder, having become the runners-up in the NJCAA Division IISoftball Championship held at Champion Field here.

After losing Friday by an 8-5 count to Phoenix College, topranked in tournament brackets, and its reigning champion for thelast four years going into Saturday’s play, Co-Lin head coach AllenKent said his team wanted “another shot” at the Bears.

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

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Although HCC has been a part of the Town of Normal for almost 20years, HCC did not begin an athletic program until last fall withmen’s and women’s soccer, debuting softball and baseball for thefirst time this Spring.

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

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

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

Co-Lin’s game concept of “small ball” – hitting singles to getgirls around the bases to score runs, thus confounding opponents -did not get much of a chance to work against Phoenix Collegesophomore pitcher Patricia Moreno who registered 12 strikeouts.Co-Lin stranded seven runners on base.

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

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

“We put all of our effort into the game against HeartlandCommunity College (starting the day) so that we could get to thispoint 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, inprevious years, the highest any Co-Lin team had gotten was third in2006.

“This was one of the best seasons that any team from our schoolhas ever had,” Kent said after the award ceremony. “Having made itto the National Championship game is something we will take with usalways.

“We’re proud to have been here,” Kent said. “We just had adifficult finish. Phoenix is a great team, a phenomenal team.”

A Swing, A Miss, A Chance: Lady Wolves freshmanutility player Brittany Watts can, someday, look back on thisexperience and admit she, too, despite an injury, was able to get aswing 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 theteam arrived here earlier this week, up to bat so that she could atleast get the chance to say she played in the National tourney. Theball missed Watts’ glove and struck her finger, preventing her frombeing able to throw at all or continue playing in depth, but NCAArules allow for a player to participate under those conditionsprovided that the batter finishing the turn at bat claims theumpire’s count that results.

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

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

No New Streaks: Co-Lin hit a lucky 13th win onDay One of this tourney Thursday against Delaware Tech. Friday, theLady Wolves’ luck lasted for just one more game on the day, as theybeat Kansas-based Johnson County Community College, 9-5 in nineinnings on the strength of a grand slam homer by second basemanKayla Crochet.

Co-Lin led 4-3 going into the seventh inning until a two-outblast over the left field fence by JCCC shortstop Lindsey Bawerstied the game, going into the bottom of the inning.

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

A single by Karee McDonald in the top of the eighth inningscored outfielder Lindsay Tuter, putting JCCC up 5-4. Co-Linpitcher Meleah Brown motored home from second base to tie the scoreat 5-all, then Co-Lin’s pitching, courtesy of Bailey, forced JCCCbatters to go down in order in their top half of the ninth.

Langley, Rousseau, and Sykes all reached base with no outs inthe bottom of the ninth when Crochet came to the plate. Crochetblasted the ball over the center field wall to provide the muscleneeded 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 withPhoenix College.

“I was just trying to get the hit,” Crochet said about her firstcareer grand slam and 11th homer of the season. “I didn’t care ifit was a pop-up or not because Emily’s fast. She would havescored.”

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

Bailey threw 137 pitches in the game against JCCC.

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

Against Phoenix College on Friday, Co-Lin looked to apply theirbrand of “small ball” against the Bears to do it. But Friday endedwith Phoenix College snapping Co-Lin’s winning streak with an 8-5win.

Co-Lin’s streak of 14 straight wins and 21 wins in their last 23tries had started late in the regular season.

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

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