It took 14 innings, but the 12th-ranked Emporia State Lady Hornets claimed their fifth MIAA Softball Tournament championship in as many seasons with a 4-0 victory over Central Missouri Saturday afternoon (May 3) at the Mid-America West Sports Complex.
The Lady Hornets (40-15, 15-3 MIAA) earned the MIAA’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division II North Central Regional Tournament, which ESU will host starting Wednesday (May 7) at the Trusler Sports Complex in Emporia, Kan.
Senior RHP Samantha Sheeley (24-6) pitched 13 innings of no-hit softball before her teammates were able to stake her to a lead. At one point in the game, she had retired 25 straight batters sent up by Central Missouri (36-20, 12-6 MIAA).
UCM junior LHP Megan Leonard scattered eight hits in the first 12 innings, fanning 14 as the Lady Hornets stranded 12 baserunners while she was in the circle. She was relieved in the top of the 13th by junior RHP Kelly Martin (3-2), after getting out of a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the 12th.
The Jennies had two runners in scoring position without the aid of a hit in the 11th. Sheeley walked the first two batters she faced in the frame before they were advanced by a sacrifice by senior 3B Katie Bauer.
Junior C Aubree Brattin then picked off sophomore PR Angie Selby from third, then Sheeley fanned senior 1B Whitney Sandberg to end the threat.
In the top of the 14th, Brattin led off for the Lady Hornets by stinging a single off of Martin’s glove in the pitching circle. Junior CF Jenna Potter was able to reach next on an error while trying to sacrifice bunt. Senior LF Jessie Wiard then loaded the sacks with a bunt single.
Martin induced freshman 2B Angela Mahan into a fielder’s choice, as junior SS Tracy Anderson threw out Brattin at the plate to keep the game scoreless. She then got junior 1B Jennifer Dace to pop out in the infield for the second out.
Sophomore 3B Miranda Campbell then stepped up to the plate and came through with a double to drive home two runs and break the stalemate. Senior SS April Huddleston then single to right and brought home two more runs before senior RF Shelbe Hughes lined hard to right to end the threat.
With the pressure off, Sheeley allowed her first and only hit when Bauer stroked a single to leftfield. She then regrouped and struck out the next two batters before getting a foul out on the first-base side, which Dace squeezed to secure the title.
Sheeley, the MIAA’s Pitcher of the Year, ended up with a career-high 19 strikeouts while walking four as she faced just five batters over the minimum.
Brattin finished 3-for-5, while Mahan and Huddleston each went 2-for-6 and Hughes was 2-for-7. The win extended ESU’s string of consecutive victories in MIAA Tournament play to 20.