Turning the tables from a year ago, the Murray State College softball squad swept East Central College out of the NJCAA Division II playoffs Friday afternoon in Oklahoma.
Murray State defeated the Falcons, 9-1 and 16-8 to win the best-of-three District J series and earn the right to advance to the national tournament in Mississippi.
East Central finished its season with a 21-16 record.
“At the time it was a humbling and painful experience,” said East Central Head Coach Brad Wallach. “But, in hindsight, I’ve never been more proud of the girls than the way they handled themselves that weekend. They battled as hard as they could and hung together through a tough time. Most importantly, they did it with class. We try to focus on the things we can control and we definitely did that. We’ve got no regrets.”
The series took an ominous turn for the Falcons in the first inning. Sophomore pitcher Julie Scheer (New Haven) was injured and lost for the rest of the day.
“We felt very prepared and confident going down to the district,” Wallach said. “What we couldn’t prepare for was Julie’s injury and exit in the first inning of the first game.”
Scheer’s injury is not known yet, Wallach said.
“They didn’t have a trainer so we don’t have a definite diagnosis for the injury yet,” Wallach said. “She came off the field in the first inning of the first game with severe pain in her lower back and leg. I’m guessing she pinched a nerve and it set off muscle spasms. Whatever happened, it was obvious that she couldn’t go on.”
Murray State, the visiting team for that game, scored twice in the first inning and added a run in the second.
ECC scored its lone run in the bottom of the second inning. The Aggies exploded for five runs in the top of the fourth and another in the top of the fifth.
When the Falcons failed to score in the bottom of the frame, the game was ended on the mercy rule.
Scheer went one inning, allowing two runs on six hits with one strikeout.
Freshman Chelsea Bax (Fatima) relieved and went four innings, allowing eight runs (six earned) on seven hits (including two home runs). She struck out three.
“We warmed Chelsea up as fast as we could and she did the best she could as long as she could. Eventually, the game got away from us in the 4th inning.”
Overall, Murray State posted 13 hits and took advantage of two ECC errors.
Offensively, East Central was limited to four singles in the game. No Falcons walked or were hit by pitches.
The hits came from sophomores Grace Fritz (Borgia), Chloe Galati (Borgia) and Amber Odom (Linn) and freshman Abby Job (Warrenton).
Job scored the run while Alex Adelsberger (Timberland) drove her in.
Adelsberger, Galati and freshman Michelle Bryant (Crocker) stole bases.
The Falcons set an early tone for the second game by scoring five times in the top of the first.
While Murray State scored twice in the bottom of the inning, East Central added two more runs in the top of the second.
Murray State chipped back with three runs in the third and one in the fourth.
East Central added an insurance run to go up 7-6 in the top of the fifth inning, but the host team ended it there.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, the Aggies exploded for 10 runs to end the game, 16-8.
“After the first game, we knew our best chance to win the next game was to simply outhit them,” said Wallach. “We jumped on them for five in the first and two more in the second. We were clinging to an 8-6 lead in the bottom of the fifth with one out and we couldn’t get the second out. Chelsea was making decent pitches and we didn’t make errors; they just pounded the ball.”
Offensively, the Falcons picked up eight hits, including three doubles and a pair of home runs.
Both home runs came from sophomore Kris Stevens (Union) who went 3-3 in the game. Stevens also posted a double, scored three times and drove in five runs.
Fritz capped her ECC career with two hits, including a double. She scored twice.
Freshman Haley Zenner (Dubuque, Iowa), doubled while scoring once and driving in two runs.
Adelsberger singled and Galati added a single and a run.
Bax suffered the loss, allowing 14 runs on 13 hits (including three home runs) and one walk. She hit one batter and struck out two over 4.2 innings.
Zenner closed out the game while allowing two runs on four hits while not recording an out.
The Falcons bid farewell to eight sophomores after this season.
Sophomores this season were Galati, Stevens, Scheer, Odom, Fritz, Ashley Brooks (Centralia), Sara Wade (Union) and Brooke Sammet (Union).
Seven players were freshmen this season and are eligible to return. They are Zenner, Adelsberger, Bax, Job, Bryant, Megan Heimbaugh (Rolla) and Brittany Miller (Lindbergh).