Walnut Ridge, Ark. (WBC) - The Williams Baptist College softball squad won the American Midwest Conference Tournament championship on Friday afternoon. WBC swept the Pirates from Park University in the best-of-three series. They won game one 5-0 and game two 3-2 in the 10th inning. Now the Lady Eagles will be headed to the national tournament in Gulf Shores, Ala.
Williams' record stands at 49-9 and they are the 14th ranked team in the country. They have captured the regular season and postseason AMC crown for the first time in school history.
The Lady Eagles controlled game one from the first inning. After pitcher Shelby Anderson put the Pirate hitters down in order, WBC's offense got started with an infield single by leadoff hitter Felicia Woodard, who was then sacrificed to second by Wendy Eftink. After a groundout and walk, Laura Tucker drove in the first run of the game with a ball to leftfield. Chelsea Sanders and Jill Graham hit back-to-back singles to add two more runs and give Williams a 3-0 lead after one inning.
From there it turned into a pitching battle between Anderson and Megan Walker. Neither pitcher gave up a run until Williams snuck two across in the fifth for the decisive 5-0 lead.
Anderson finished the complete game shutout giving up four hits and two walk. She gave credit to her defense for the victory, as Graham gathered eight assists from the shortstop position.
"I really depended on my defense the whole game, and the defense came through in a big way. Jill stopped everything hit to her," said Anderson.
The Lady Eagles finished with nine hits in the contest, while holding Park to four.
Game two would be a pitching duel between Karisa Hendrix and Kaily Purtle. Both pitchers went a combined 20 innings and 304 pitches thrown. Hendrix would edge Purtle 3-2 in ten innings.
The spectators had to wait till the fourth inning to see a run cross the plate. Hallie Horton and Tucker would score after an error by the Pirates infield, giving the Lady Eagles the 2-0 lead.
The lead seemed safe until one out in the bottom of the seventh when Park's Shaya Kinsey belted a two-run homerun to leftfield. The shot tied the game and sent it to extra innings.
Park looked likely to score when an error sent Mallory Jansen to third base, but Woodard gunned her out with a laser from centerfield when Jansen tried to score.
After both teams failed to score in the eighth or ninth innings, the 10th would provide the winning run. Woodard led off the inning with an infield single, followed by an Eftink sacrifice. With one out and a runner on second, Anderson came to the plate. She lined the first pitch over the shortstop's head and Woodard raced around the bases to give the Lady Eagles the 3-2 lead.
Hendrix walked two batters in the bottom of the 10th but struck out the Pirate batter on her 159th pitch of the contest. The Lady Eagles swept the series and advanced to their first ever NAIA national tournament.
"I am just so happy for our team and our seniors because we have been so close in previous years. It is fulfilling for our seniors and our team to reach this goal," said Head Coach Eric Newell.
The NAIA tournament will take place May 17-23 in Gulf Shores, Ala.