Plant City, Fla. -- Chattanooga State Technical Community College, Gulf Coast Community College, Indian River Community College, and Pima Community College all survived from the original field of 16 teams that began play Thursday at the National Junior College Athletic Association’s (NJCAA) Division I women’s softball national championship.
A new title holder will be crowned tomorrow, with games scheduled at 10 a.m., noon, and 2 p.m. in Plant City Stadium. The tournament, which is taking place at the world headquarters of the International Softball Federation (ISF), did not include last year’s national champion, Central Arizona College, who were prevented from coming to the Sunshine State when they lost to Pima (Tucson, AZ) in the qualifying tournament.
Gulf Coast (54-9), the third seed from Panama City, Fla., advanced to tomorrow’s first game by shutting out top-seeded Temple College of Texas (55-5), 2-0. The winners got the only run they’d need in the opening inning of the game. Natalie Vogler hit a two-out solo home run in the bottom of the first inning and the Lady Commodores added an insurance tally in the bottom of the sixth to support winning pitcher Sarah Dooley, who threw a complete-game three-hitter with 11 strikeouts.
Gulf Coast’s opponent tomorrow morning will be six seed Chattanooga (55-13), thanks to a 5-0 win over ninth-seeded Odessa College from Texas (42-23). Two Chattanooga pitchers combined on a one-hit shutout to give the squad a fourth straight win after kicing off the tournament with a loss.
The winner of tomorrow morning’s game will stay on the field to play No. 2 Indian River (Ft. Pierce, Florida) by virtue of the Pioneers’ 4-0 loss to Pima this evening. The game’s winner will go on to play for the national championship against the Aztecs, thanks to Friday’s nightcap that saw Pima win for the fourth time in as many tries in the tournament. Single tallies in the second and fifth innings, and a two-run third accounted for all the offense that upped the winner’s record to 59-10. Indian River (57-12) tried to rally in its last at-bat, getting two runners on base with no outs and then using a Pima fielding error to load the bases with two outs. A strike out, however, ended the game as the Pioneers fell short in the rally attempt.
Indian River defeated Gulf Coast 3-1 earlier today, breaking a 1-1 tie with two runs in the top of the seventh. Gulf Coast took an early 1-0 lead with a RBI double by Kelyn Mendoza in the bottom of the second but stranded seven baserunners the rest of the way to suffer its first loss after opening the tournament with two wins by a combined score of 18-7.
Pima needed extra innings to beat Odessa, 4-2. Catcher Amanda Duran hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the 10th inning to give the Aztecs their third straight win at the tournament. Duran finished 4-for-4 at the plate with three RBIs and two runs scored. Teammate Jessica McNamara went 3-for-5, and winning pitcher Dana Alcocer went all 10 innings with 11 strikeouts.
Chattanooga advanced to an evening showdown with Odessa by way of a 4-0 win that eliminated Louisburg of North Carolina (29-16). The writing was on the wall early when Kala Cooper – the game’s winning pitcher – opened with a triple to start a three-run first inning for the Lady Tigers.
Chattanooga opened the day with a 4-2, come-from-behind victory over Missouri’s Jefferson College, the 12th seed (42-30). All four runs came in the top of the seventh inning, with three of them coming on one swing of the bat by India Turner.
On an adjacent field, Louisburg eliminated the 10th-seeded Blinn College (40-22) 3-2. The winners got all the needed runs in the top of the fourth inning, and then had to hold off the Buccaneers, who got single tallies in the sixth and seventh innings but couldn’t solve winning pitcher Ashley Raynor, who struck out eight in a complete-game performance.
Temple, the top seed, won its first two games of the day by shutout. Temple knocked off Eastern Oklahoma (56-17) 4-0. Losing pitcher Marjorie Johnson, who one day earlier set the all-time single season NJCAA strikeout record, tacked 12 more onto her total in six innings of work. Katie Garnett picked up the win.
The Leopards followed that win with a 5-0 blanking of 11 seed Southeastern Community College of Iowa (43-14).