By Chad Waller, NAIA Director of Communications and Sports Information
COLUMBUS, Ga. – (Box Score) No. 10 seed Spring Hill (Ala.) continued its winning ways with a 9-1, run-rule victory over No. 2 seed Lubbock Christian (Texas) at the 2013 NAIA Softball National Championship final site at the South Commons Softball Complex on Saturday. The Badgers needed 14 innings yesterday to win their opening game, but knocked around two Lubbock Christian pitchers today to end the contest in five frames.
When asked about the team’s fatigue in playing 19 innings in two days, Spring Hill head coach Alison Sellers-Cook said, “We’ve played so many games with our conference schedule, including doubleheaders in a row. We’re used to this heat and they were prepared for that matter. They are focused and know what the goal is, and they’re going after it.”
Spring Hill moves to 47-15 on the season and stays in the winner’s bracket. The member of the Southern States Athletic Conference takes on No. 6 Williams Baptist (Ark.) Monday at 7 p.m. EDT. Lubbock Christian falls to the loser’s bracket and will face No. 9 Saint Xavier (Ill.) Monday at 10 a.m.
The Badgers handed starting pitcher Caroline Sagrera a 2-0 cushion after the first inning. Taylor Webre successfully laid down a suicide squeeze bunt to score Mariha Partman, who reached on a hit-by-pitch. The next batter, Katelyn Hinson, laced an RBI single to plate Jade Bourgeois.
The Lady Chaps, winners of the Sooner Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament, cut the deficit in half in the third inning on a RBI single by Latainna Eltsosie. That play drove in McKenzie Clemmons, who reached on a two-out single.
At that point, Spring Hill dominated from the plate and Sagrera settled down for her 36th win of the year. She posted seven strikeouts to add to her collegiate-leading 449 whiffs on the season in 317.0 innings pitched. She walked five batters and allowed three hits.
From the plate, Spring Hill took a 5-1 lead in the fourth inning on two hits. The big-blow was a three-run home run from Mariha Partman (pictured top left - picture courtesy of www.NAIApictures.com). That bomb to centerfield was her team-leading 12th on the year.
“Mariah is capable of that every single at-bat and she’s done that for us so many times this year… come up with that big at-bat when we needed it,” said Sellers-Cook. “I’m glad it happened when it did. It broke that lead open to take the pressure off our pitcher and defense to have a little more room to sit back and do what they are capable of doing, instead of pressing.”
The Badgers ended the game early by sending seven batters to the plate in the fifth inning. After a line-out by Taylor Webre, Hinson notched her second hit of the game to start things going. Taylor Lahasky followed with a single to left and chased starting pitcher Katera Eltsosie. Two batters later, Raleigh Downs posted a two-RBI single and Shea Blanchard sent home the game’s final run on a single up the middle. Another run was scored earlier on a wild throw.
The nine runs allowed is the third-most given up by the Lady Chaps this year. Lubbock Christian had allowed an average of less than three runs in its last nine contests.
Lubbock Christian, who leads the NAIA in stolen bases per game and set the national record (257), tallied three today. However, the Lady Chaps left seven runners stranded against Sagrera.
Katera Eltsosie dropped to 28-6 on the year. She allowed seven runs on seven hits in 4 1/3 innings. Courtney McGee gave up two runs (one earned) on two hits and did not record an out.
The run-rule loss was the first for Lubbock Christian in 27 all-time championship games.
Hinson and Downs led the Badgers with two hits apiece.
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.