ST. GEORGE, UTAH – As Day Three of the NJCAA Division I women’s softball tournament beckons, only eight teams remain with a shot at the national championship.
Wabash Valley is one of them.
The Lady Warriors, after losing in the second round to Miami Dade, Fla., 8-0, on Thursday afternoon, bounced back to defeat Eastern Arizona, 8-0, Thursday night in an elimination game.
WVC (39-12), was scheduled to play Howard, Tex. (47-13) at 1 p.m. CDT on Friday.
With their backs to the wall against Eastern Arizona (46-19), the Lady Warriors responded with a near flawless performance in a game shortened to five innings by the 8-run rule. Allison Webster threw a no hitter, and the WVC bats pounded out seven hits, including a three-run home run by Kera Hartman in the fourth inning to account for the finals, after scoring five runs in the second.
“I’m very proud of them,” said Hall of Fame coach Paul Schnarre after the win. “I wasn’t sure how we could come out against this Arizona ballclub, and put it to them 8-0. I didn’t think that was possible."
Webster improved to 24-3 with the win in the circle, striking out five batters.
Schnarre thought his team seemed out of sync against Miami Dade. The usual pre-game buildup was interrupted twice by rain and lightning at the Canyon Complex where the games are being played, sending all teams scurrying back to their bus for shelter.
But Wednesday night’s 2-1 first-round upset of No. 2 seed Wallace State, Ala. also seemed to take a toll. “That win took an awful lot of energy,” Schnarre said. “We put everything we had to win that game. Then we had the rain and the wind (before the Miami Dade game) and we missed some batting practice. I don’t think Allie was as loose. We just didn’t play well.”
In the Tuesday opener, Webster pitched what Schnarre said “was one of the greatest game ever” for Wabash Valley, a 15th seed coming in. She struck out 12 Wallace State batters and allowed just two hits. The Lady Lions had runners on from the third inning on, and Webster was able to wiggle off the hook each time.
WVC (39-12) pushed across a run in the second, but the difference turned out to be the solo home run Meagan Godoyo hit to lead off the third inning to make it 2-0.
Wallace State countered with an unearned run in the home half of the third, but that was it.
The tournament is proving to be more wide open as it unfolds. Top-seed and No. 1-ranked Salt Lake was eliminated Thursday night. Wallace State lost its next game, too, meaning the two pre-tourney favorites are already heading home.
There will be four games played simultaneously at 1 p.m., including two semifinal games: Northeastern Oklahoma A & M, a ninth-seed, faces No. 5 Blinn, Tex. in one bracket, with the two Florida schools in the field, 10th-seed Miami Dade and No. 3 Chipola facing off in the other bracket.
WVC still faces a daunting task of having to win three games Friday and two Saturday to win the national championship. If they can oust Howard today, they would also face opponents at 3:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. There will be only two teams left when play resumes on Saturday.