MT. CARMEL – A few short miles before the bus carrying the Wabash Valley College Lady Warriors softball team reached its destination of Spencer Sports Center – which it did at 3 a.m. Monday following a nine-day, 3300-mile trip and seventh place finish at the NJCAA Division I softball tournament in St. George, Utah – Paul Schnarre took time to thank his players for such a successful season, and another chapter in the Hall of Fame coach’s illustrious career.
“I thought we played well and represented our area well,” said Schnarre of the Region 24 champions, the 10th team he has taken to the national tournament.
But, the Lady Warriors left more than the winningest coach in the history of junior college softball impressed. They gained the attention of the fans gathered at the Canyon Complex on opening night Wednesday when, as a 15th seed, they knocked off two-time former national champion and No. 2 seed Wallace State of Alabama, 2-1.
“Our signature game of the tournament,” is how Schnarre termed the upset win of the nation’s third-ranked team. “It seemed like fans from other games moved over to our field as they watched a No. 15 seed knock off a No. 2 seed. We played well then.”
They weren’t done though. After seeming out-of-sync following weather delays, leading to an 8-0 loss to Miami Dade, WVC did something Illinois teams rarely do – eliminate a team from the state with more national titles than any other. Eastern Arizona fell, 8-0, on a no-hitter by Allison Webster.
“I can’t remember the last time an Illinois team beat an Arizona team. Perhaps the 1990s but I’m not sure,” Schnarre said.
The offensive barrage the Lady Warriors became known for at St. George continued even after falling behind Howard, Texas 8-2. They rallied dramatically in the seventh inning, extending the game to the point where they got the winning run to the plate in an 8-5 loss on Friday which forced an end to a 39-13 season.
“We played well right up until the fifth,” said Schnarre, noting three walks and a grand slam home run allowed Howard six runs to overtake WVC’s 2-1 lead. “But we fought back. I couldn’t be any prouder of the effort they gave us.”
WVC carried a .310 team batting average (the third-highest average) into the third day of play on Saturday, then out hit Howard, 9-8, to add to the mark.
“We did a great job against some good pitching,” Schnarre said. Brazilian sophomore Melina Calixto of Miami Dade was the only hurler that kept the Lady Warriors off stride, allowing only two hits in recording her second straight shutout win after the Sharks beat Temple, Texas, 2-0 in their opener.
Wabash Valley players took the tournament’s top two offensive awards. Megan Godoyo, whose solo home run was the difference against Wallace State, was named the Most Outstanding Offensive Player for her 7-of-14 series with three RBIs. Leadoff hitter Carly Childress, like Godoyo perfect at the plate against Wallace, finished the tourney 7-of-13 and was selected as the Marucci Elite Hitter Award.
With a no-hitter against Eastern Arizona, and a 12-strikeout, two-hit win over Wallace State, Webster’s stock rose immensely during her week on the national stage.
“She has over a dozen full-ride offers right now,” said Schnarre of the sophomore from Charlestown, Ind. But, other two-year starters Kera Hartman, Kennedy Christy and Childress “have a lot of interest in them.
“This has been a real positive experience for all of them.”
Schnarre has already hit the recurring trail, too, and has nine players already lined up to fill holes left by graduation. “We’re still kind of in the market,” he said during an on-bus interview. “We’re looking around for players who could help our ball club, another outfielder or pitcher or catcher. If we find some great, but if we don’t that’s okay too. I think we’ll be strong again next year."