By Murray Evans
TROUTVILLE, Va. (May 16, 2014) – After overcoming a few initial nerves, Oklahoma Christian announced with its play on the field Friday that it’s a serious threat in the National Christian College Athletic Association Softball Championship.
Taylor Mosher and Shea Coats each delivered a sensational pitching performance as the Lady Eagles advanced to the winners’ bracket final, beating Campbellsville (Ky.) 11-6, then thumping defending national champion Union (Tenn.) 8-0 in six innings at Botetourt Sports Complex, in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Making its first national-tournament appearance in 11 years, second-seeded OC (41-14) extended its winning streak to a season-best 13 games and will face top-seeded Shorter (Ga.) on Saturday morning at 9 a.m. A win against Shorter (40-10) would put the Lady Eagles one win from a national title; a loss would mean they’d have to win three straight to take the championship.
Grace (Ind.) and Union also remain alive in the tournament’s losers’ bracket.
“We had our first-game jitters,” OC coach Tom Heath said. “It was the first national appearance for a lot of young players, so that was expected. But we came through it.”
The OC-Campbellsville game had been delayed by rain on Thursday morning with the score tied 1-1 and when it resumed, the Lady Eagles staked Coats to a quick lead, finishing off a four-run first inning that included RBI singles from Niki Davidson, Courtney Starr, Monique Elliott and Lauren Pittman against Campbellsville starter Taylor Wroe (19-5)
OC added three more runs in the second, with Starr adding another RBI single, to go up 7-1 over Campbellsville (43-20). When Coats hit a batter and walked two others to start the third, Heath opted to pull her and go with fellow freshman Haley Squier, hoping to save Coats for the Union game.
Squier faced five batters, walking three and allowing one hit, before giving way to Mosher (11-6). Mosher hit a batter before retiring two straight batters, ending an inning during which the Tigers scored five runs on just one hit, a two-run single by Alyssa Barker.
That left OC with a tenuous 7-6 lead, but Mosher blanked the Tigers the rest of the way, striking out six batters and allowing just two hits in her 4 2/3-inning stint.
“I was just trying to throw strikes and Moose (Thomas) called a really good game,” Mosher said. “I was just trying to get my movement working, more than speed.”
The Lady Eagles added two runs in the fourth, with Pittman contributing a run-scoring double, and another in the fifth on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Martha Thomas. Starr doubled and scored on Lauren Chatigny’s single in the sixth to make it 11-6.
Coats (23-2) started against Union and returned to form, recording her 21st straight winning decision with a complete-game two-hitter. The Bulldogs’ only hits were a leadoff single in the first inning by Reagan Schrader and a third-inning single by Sarah Kreuter. It was Coats’ 19th complete game and 11th shutout of her debut season.
“Shea was a completely different pitcher in the second game,” Heath said. “She was very confident, getting ahead in the count. Both she and Taylor did a great job and our team came through, offensively and defensively.”
Kendra Pierce gave Coats all the run support she needed in the third inning, smashing a two-run home run over the left-field fence after Chatigny had reached on an error on Union first baseman Carter Mansolino. Pierce reached on a fielder’s choice grounder and scored in the fifth when Union left fielder Alex Williams dropped a long fly ball by Thomas.
Union (29-26) committed two more errors in the sixth, opening the door for OC to score five more runs. Thomas’ two-run single scored Chatigny and Pierce, who had reached on another dropped fly ball, by Krueter, the Union right fielder.
That made it 8-0 and when Coats retired the Bulldogs in order in the bottom of the inning, the game ended due to the run rule.
“I know that I have my teammates behind me,” Coats said. “It’s nice knowing when I’m standing in the circle that I have three other pitchers behind me who can come in and do just as well. It was a lot easier to relax.”