Dates: May 5-6, 2016
Scores: Game One: Columbia 4, (RV) WBC 3 Game Two: (RV) WBC 7, Freed-Hardeman 5, Game Three: (RV) WBC 5, (24) Park 1, Game Four: (RV) WBC 5, Columbia 4, Game Five: (RV) WBC 6, Columbia 4
Record: (RV) Williams Baptist College (35-19)
Location: City of Colleges Park - Conway, Ark.
Walnut Ridge, Ark. - The (RV) Williams Baptist College softball team traveled to Conway, Ark., on Thursday and Friday to compete in the final four of the American Midwest Conference Championships. After splitting a pair of games on Thursday, the Lady Eagles rebounded and won three games on Friday afternoon to claim the tournament title and advance to the NAIA National Tournament. This is the first time the team has won the tournament since 2012.
Starting off the AMC Tournament:
On Thursday, Williams played Columbia College, and despite leading most of the game, the Cougars rebounded and won the game on a walk-off double by Allyson Metz to win the first game 4-3. The Lady Eagles were sent to the loser's bracket in the double elimination tournament.
The next game for WBC was against the Lady Lions of Freed-Hardeman University. Williams kept swinging hot bats throughout the contest and jumped out to a 7-0 lead. The Lady Lions would not go down quietly, however. The squad clawed back in the seventh and final inning to make the contest interesting. After scoring five runs in the top half, WBC pitcher Catherine Totty (FR/Haslet, Texas) shut the door for the victory and kept the WBC tournament flame lit. Hayley Overbay (SR/Jonesboro, Ark. ) hit her first career home run in the game. Brooke Mason (FR/Bald Knob, Ark. ) also hit a home run in the win.
The Start of Friday's Saga:
Williams had to battle back through the loser's bracket for a chance at the championship. The Lady Eagles were three games away from reaching the title. The first team that WBC faced was the AMC regular season champion and 24th ranked Park University. Williams took a 4-0 advantage after three innings. A Madelyn Poe (SO/Beebe, Ark. ) triple in the bottom of the sixth extended the lead to 5-0. Park scored its only run of the game in the top of the seventh on a sac fly. WBC pitcher Rylee Rogers (JR/Conyers, Ga. ) only gave up one earned run in the game in the victory.
The Championship Games:
With the win against Park, WBC advanced to the championship series and faced Columbia again. The Lady Eagles had to win two games to claim the title since Columbia had not lost a game in the tournament up to that point.
One for the History "Brooks":
Williams, who was the home team for the first game of the series, leapt ahead 2-0 in the first game after pinch-hitter Randi Bachtel (SO/Yucaipa, Calif. ) singled up the middle to score two runs. Madelyn Poe smashed the ball to left and scored Jordyn Barkowsky (SO/Kingsburg, Calif. ) on the single to extend the WBC lead to 3-0. Columbia fought back and cut the WBC deficit to 3-2. The Cougars were the next team to score in the top of the sixth as an infield RBI single tied the game at 3-3. A bases loaded walk put CC ahead 4-3 until Erica Arguello (FR/San Antonio, Texas) pitched out of a threat. Poe singled again in the bottom of the sixth and once again drove in Barkowsky to tie the game at 4-4. Rylee Rogers entered in the top of the seventh and worked a clean inning.
The Lady Eagles had their 3-4-5 hitters due up in the bottom of the seventh. Callie Brooks (SR/Monette, Ark. ) stepped into the box with her usual calm, yet serious demeanor. On the first pitch of the inning, she launched the dramatic walk-off home run and forced another game in the tournament. The senior was determined to not let her season end in the AMC Tournament.
"Callie really carried us today," stated Head Coach Laura Tucker. "She goes all out in all that she does and that has trickled down throughout the team. She really led us today in not only her on-the-field performance, but she talked to a lot of the girls and encouraged them between innings as well."
The Dramatic Conclusion for the New Champions:
Williams and CC split the first two games of the tournament in walk-off fashion with the home team winning both games. Before the start of the game, Columbia won the coin toss and took the home side for the final game of the tournament.
Callie Brooks stepped into the box in her first at-bat since her dramatic walk-off home run. She launched a high pitch over the wall in left field to give WBC a 2-0 lead early for her second home run in as many at-bats. Columbia scored a run on a home run in the bottom of the second to cut the lead to 2-1. The Cougars would hit another home run in the bottom of the third to tie the game at 2-2.
Ashley Lyons (FR/Vilonia, Ark. ) decided to join the home run parade in the top of the fourth as she launched a home run of her own to reclaim the lead for the Lady Eagles at 3-2.
The Cougars, fighting for their season, battled back in the bottom of the fourth to score two runs in the frame on a wild pitch and RBI single and reclaimed the lead at 4-3.
In the top of the sixth, Brooke Mason hit a deep fly ball to right field. Brooks, who was tagging from second, raced to third and beat the wild throw, that eventually landed in the dugout, allowing Brooks to score and tie the game at 4-4.
Hayley Overbay stepped up in the bottom of the seventh and delivered a rocket RBI single to left that would ultimately be the go-ahead hit in the contest. WBC added another run with Randi Bachtel drawing a bases loaded walk.
Rylee Rogers, who was entering her 15th inning pitched in the day, walked out to the circle and slammed the door in her complete game victory. Overbay also gunned down a very dangerous baserunner in Carly Spalding in the inning to help seal the victory and give WBC its first national tournament birth since 2013.
"Hayley had a great tournament," stated Head Coach Laura Tucker. "She has had a great year and has made a name for herself with her bat this season. She is a leader on this team and I don't think I could be more proud of anyone. She got her first home run this tournament and she stepped up and got the go-ahead RBI in the seventh inning of the championship game."
Coach Tucker had equal praise for her pitcher, Rylee Rogers. "Rylee threw really well today. She has been our ace this season and today she really stepped up and fought some tough hitters. She threw a lot of innings, but she never let it get her down. She had great composure in the circle, just kept fighting and trusted her teammates to have her back. I am incredibly proud of Rylee and how she competed today."
Final Reflections from the Coach:
First year Head Coach Laura Tucker is no stranger to AMC postseason success. She was a starter on the 2012 squad, which was the last team to win the AMC postseason tournament. She had nothing but admiration after winning the tournament:
"We knew before the games this morning that we could do this. We trusted in God's plan for this team. We truly believed that we could win three games and reach our goal for going to Nationals. We had three words for today: cherish, overcome and fight. Cherish the moment, overcome adversity and fight until the end. We talked about heart as well. We knew today would be about who had the most heart and who wanted it the most, and that is exactly what our team embodied. I have never seen so much heart as what our girls showed today. Everyone stepped up and wanted to win so badly and they never gave up until the final out. I could not be more proud of the way our team has fought through adversity and I have never seen a team so determined to reach their goal of going to nationals. This group is so special and we could not be more excited to continue the season!"
The Lady Eagles will know of their fate in Nationals on Tuesday, at 6 p.m. For more updates on the WBC softball team, check out www.wbceagles.com.