By Chad Waller, NAIA Director of Communications and Sports Information
Photo courtesy of www.naiapictures.com
COLUMBUS, Ga. – (Box Score) Williams Baptist (Ark.) pitcher Karisa Hendrix proved that good pitching can beat good hitting. The senior carried the No. 6-seeded Lady Eagles to a 3-1 victory against No. 3 Lee (Tenn.) in the opening round of the 2013 NAIA Softball National Championship final site at the South Commons Softball Complex on Friday.
Williams Baptist (45-7) advances into the winner’s bracket of the double-elimination event and will play the winner of No. 2 Lubbock Christian (Texas) and No. 10 Spring Hill (Ala.) Monday at 7 p.m. EDT. Lee drops into the loser’s bracket and will face No. 7 Auburn Montgomery (Ala.) Saturday at 1 p.m.
Entering the contest, Hendrix ranked second in the NAIA in opponent batting average (.146) and she stymied the Lee bats. Lee ended the game with one run on five hits, four of which were singles (.192 average). She is just the sixth pitcher this year to hold Lee to five-or-fewer hits (in 57 games). The Flames entered the championship No. 1 in the nation in batting average (.385) and hits per game (11.0).
“She has been doing it for us all year,” said Williams Baptist coach Eric Newell about Hendrix. “Of course I am biased, but if I could pick anyone in the championship to throw, I would throw Karisa.”
The game began as a pitcher’s duel. Caroline MacAusland of Lee matched Hendrix through four innings. MacAusland, who fell to 16-5 with the loss, allowed just three hits through four innings and Hendrix allowed two in the same span.
The Lady Eagles’ offense woke up in the top of the fifth inning. Kirsten Gipson pinch hit for third baseman Kayla Jones to lead-off and Gipson capitalized with a single. After a sacrifice and single placed runners on second and third, Felicia Woodard, who went 2-for-3 from the plate, rapped a RBI-single to shortstop. Williams Baptist tacked on two more unearned runs to take a 3-0 lead.
“It was big to get the lead-off hit,” said Newell on his team’s scoring in the fifth. “We moved her over and played a little small ball. We did capitalize on some errors and had a squeeze play that paid off for us. We were happy to get the runs against a very good team.”
Lee got one run back via a RBI double from Dominique Hannah in the bottom of the fifth inning. But Hendrix clamped down and got a fly-out to end the threat.
In the final two innings, there was just one combined base hit that Lee recorded in the sixth. But, Hendrix escaped a two-out single and improved to 24-5 on the year.
Dezirae Parsons led the Flames with two singles on the night.
The championship is a 10-team, double-elimination event hosted by the Columbus Sports Council. This is the 33rd annual championship and takes place in the state of Georgia for the first time in NAIA softball history.
For more information on the national championship, click here.