UNION — Sweeping Murray State College of Tishomingo, Okla., Friday, the East Central College softball Falcons qualified for the NJCAA Division II National Tournament.
ECC (28-30) swept the Aggies in two games Friday, 5-4 and 7-1, to earn the District J berth in the NJCAA Division II national tournament. That event takes place May 17-19 in Clinton, Miss.
It's the third time the Falcons have advanced to the national tournament. The team last advanced to the national tournament in 1994, finishing ninth. The 1977 team placed fifth.
In the opener, the Falcons had to fight from behind. Murray State scored first, getting a solo home run by Kayla Pahcoddy in the top of the first inning.
But the Falcons came back to score three times in the bottom of the second. Another Murray State home run, by Shayla Bingham, cut it to 3-2 in the top of the third.
The Falcons added another run in the bottom of the fifth before Murray State threatened with a big inning in the sixth. Tying the game at 4-4, ECC Head Coach Brad Wallach switched pitchers, bringing in sophomore Brooke Brenton (Lebanon) to relieve freshman Julie Scheer (New Haven).
Brenton, the winner in the final game of the Region 16 Tournament, faced a tough situation with a tie game, the bases loaded and nobody out. She coaxed a 1-2-3 double play and then got a flyout to left to end the threat.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Falcons rallied with two outs.
Freshman Jessica Jones (Wright City) reached on a bunt single. After stealing second, she raced home on an infield hit by Brenton, catching Murray State off guard. The run was what the Falcons needed.
But ECC wasn't home free. In the top of the seventh, Sally Simco led off with a single to center. But freshman first baseman Kris Stevens (Union) snagged a bunt which was popped up and relayed the ball to sophomore Rhiannon Edler (Owensville) for a double play. The Falcons got a flyout to freshman Keely Hill (Reeds Spring) in left to end the game.
In the second game, ECC was the visiting team and this time the Falcons jumped on top.
ECC scored twice in the second, once in the third and three times in the fourth inning to go up, 6-0.
Another run came in the sixth inning. Murray State scored its lone run in the bottom of that inning, but Brenton got two grounders and a fly ball to earn her second win on the day, going the distance.
The biggest hit in the second game was a three-run home run by Stevens in the fourth inning, which brought home Jones and Brenton.
Perhaps the circuit which defined the game came in the fourth inning. Sophomore Nicole Thompson (Winfield) beat out a bunt and moved to second on a fielder's choice. A determined Thompson then hustled home on a hit by Hill, sliding through the dust to score East Central's third run.
Fielding made a huge difference in the game as well. Murray State committed seven errors on the day to one for ECC. Time after time, the Aggies had trouble playing bunts.
Additional coverage will be in the Wednesday Missourian.