TAMPA, Fla. - The Wallace State Community College-Hanceville (Alabama) Lady Lions are the National Junior College Athletic Association Division 1 women’s (fast pitch) softball 2008 national champions following a 5-2 victory today. The title was the school’s first and was won in Plant City Stadium, on the grounds of the International Softball Federation’s world headquarters complex in Plant City, Florida.
Having entered as the #4 seed in the 16-team tournament that began on Thursday, Wallace State won all five of their games in West Central Florida, including this afternoon’s decision over the top-ranked Santa Fe Community College (Gainesville, FL) Saints.
At this same tournament last year Wallace State finished seventh, but this year put together a 41-game winning streak that lasted two months, with their last defeat having come on March 16.
Today’s title game saw them open a 2-0 lead in the top of the third inning on a two-run triple by left fielder Jena Franks. Santa Fe had the game tied after four innings, but the Lady Lions got what would end up being the game-winning run in the top of the fifth when infielder Rachel Baucom’s single scored shortstop Hannah Strength, who had walked. Another run in that inning plus one more in the top of the seventh iced the win.
Franks finished 2-for-3 with two RBI and two runs scored. Coming on in relief of starter Holli Hill, pitcher Jennifer Sexton struck out six and held the Saints hitless in three-and-a-third innings to get the win and was named the Tournament MVP.
Santa Fe had advanced to the Final by defeating second-seeded Chattanooga State Technical Community College (Tennessee), 6-1. The Saints began the scoring with a two-run third inning courtesy of a two-RBI Whitney Mills double. Two innings later Santa Fe put up four more runs, highlighted by a two-run double off the bat of infielder Kristina Cruz from Tampa’s Holy Name Academy. Chattanooga’s run in the bottom of the seventh was too little too late against Santa Fe’s Katelyn Murphree, who pitched her fifth complete game of the tournament.
Rain didn’t dampen Santa Fe’s offense this morning against #12 San Jacinto College-South (Houston, TX). The Saints put four runs on the board in the top of the first inning before Mother Nature forced both teams to their dugouts for a delay. When play resumed, however, Santa Fe picked up where they left off and were up 9-0 before the Coyotes even came to bat. The outburst included at least one of each type of hit (single, double, triple, home run) and was helped by two San Jacinto errors. The winners added a single tally in the second inning and three more runs in the third, with the game – at 13-2 – being called after five innings due to the run-ahead rule. San Jac’s two runs came in the bottom of the second when they got four of their seven hits.
The offensive stars for Santa Fe were left fielder Jessica Bohn (4-for-4, three runs scored, two RBI) and – with a two-run homer in the top of the first – infielder Kristina Cruz (2-for-3, one run scored, team-high three RBI).