Story by Chad Waller, Director of Communications & Sports Information
Pictures courtesy of Rick Dominowski, Click HERE to order
SIOUX CITY, Iowa – (Box Score) Rose Schmidt – the No. 8 hitter with a .264 average – came through in the clutch for No. 2 Auburn Montgomery (Ala.) as her two-RBI single in the sixth inning lifted the Warhawks to a 3-2 victory over No. 3 St. Gregory’s (Okla.) in elimination bracket play at the 36th Annual NAIA Softball World Series, presented by Security National Bank and Morningside College. Prior to the rally in the sixth inning, Auburn Montgomery mustered just three singles on offense and was held scoreless.
The Warhawks will now battle with No. 1 seed Oklahoma City Wednesday at 4 p.m. CDT in a loser-out contest. This meeting will be the first between the two programs in World Series history – both teams have played over 20 games each in this event.
With two outs in the bottom of the sixth, the Warhawk comeback was ignited by back-to-back walks. Hayden Henderson, who finished with a team-best 2-for-3 effort at the plate, singled home Sydney Dishman. That play forced out St. Gregory starting pitcher Ashli Hafford. Bryn Houlton, a pitcher with three saves on the year, came on to face Schmidt.
Schmidt greeted Houlton with a single, which made its way over the head of the center-fielder and easily scored two runs. The Warhawk rally was complete at 3-2.
“I am overwhelmed with pride,” said Auburn Montgomery head coach Eric Newell. “We saw a billboard today on the way to lunch, it was of John Wayne and it said ‘I don’t like quitters” and that stuck with me. This team doesn’t have any quit in them and we showed that today.
“We talked to the girls about swinging smarter, not harder. We got a couple walks (in the sixth-inning rally), then Hayden and Rose came through back-to-back. We had good at-bats, swung at strikes and got the job done.”
Early on, both teams put pressure on the opposing pitcher. There was only one time a pitcher retired the side in the first three innings.
Finally, the St. Gregory offense came through with a pair of runs in the top of the fourth inning. Maria Mercado Contreras singled and Otelia Ramirez followed with a walk. After a force-out that erased Contreras, Jessica Nelson tripled – a first for any player during the 2016 World Series – and her two-RBI hit handed the Cavaliers a 2-0 lead.
But, St. Gregory’s couldn’t come up with the big hit in the late innings. In both the fifth and seventh innings, the Cavaliers had the tying run at third base, but Auburn Montgomery pitcher Taylor Powell found the final out.
Hafford ended up with the loss, giving up three runs on four hits. She struck out four batters and walked four. She fell to 12-4 as she tossed 5 2/3 innings.
Powell, who leads the NAIA in wins, improved to 35-4 with the complete-game victory. She allowed two runs on nine hits, while fanning three.
Schmidt, who was hitless in her six previous at-bats, finished 1-for-3 with two RBIs. Henderson also went 2-for-3 to lead the Warhawks.
Sammy Leisinger posted three hits for the Cavaliers. Sutv Meely and Nelson both recorded two hits apiece. Through Tuesday play, Meely has now collected the most hits (8) of any player in this World Series.
St. Gregory’s is eliminated from the World Series and ends its year with a 48-7 record.
Stretch Internet, the NAIA’s official video-streaming company of NAIA national championship events, will be broadcasting all 19 games of the 2016 NAIA Softball World Series on the NAIA Network. The All-World Series package can be purchased for $29.95 or the day package for $9.95. For more information, including how to register for an account, click here.
The double-elimination event is being played out at the Elizabeth & Irving Jensen Softball Complex. The City of Sioux City and Morningside College serve as official hosts for the second-straight time. For more information on the 2016 NAIA Softball World Series, click here.