Monday, May 18, 2015

ECCC Softball Lady Diamond Warriors Finish 2nd in Nation at NJCAA National Championship

The East Central Community College Lady Diamond Warriors
advanced to the championship game
of the 2015 National Junior College Athletic Association Division II Softball National Championship Saturday, May 16, before falling to Kankakee Community College 5-1.

The second-place finish in the nation is the highest-ever for the Decatur college’s softball program.

The Lady Diamond Warriors ended their record-breaking season with a 48-14 record. In addition to finishing second at the NJCAA National Championship, Head Coach Kristin Chaney’s team also finished second in the South Division of Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges league play, second in the MACJC State Tournament, and runner-up in the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament.

“This was a very special year for East Central Community College softball,” said Chaney. “I just cannot say enough about the heart of these players and their will to win. We seemed to battle adversity the entire national championship tournament, but they never gave up. Even when we were down four runs in the final inning of the final game, they still thought they would win.

“We only lose four sophomores off this year’s team and we have some talented freshmen beginning school at East Central in the fall, so I like our chances to be highly competitive next season.”

East Central, the No. 5 seed in the tournament, had to win five straight games in the NJCAA National Championship tournament to advance to the finals after losing 16-2 to Des Moines Area Community College of Iowa on Thursday to fall into the losers’ bracket. Overall, ECCC finished 6-2 in the four-day, 16-team tournament.

ECCC entered the championship game against Kankakee after having already played two games on Saturday and sitting through rain delays. The No 8 seed Cavaliers out of Kankakee, Ill., were 4-0 in the tournament up to that point and had not played since 4 p.m. the previous day.

The Lady Diamond Warriors grabbed the lead first, 1-0, when Katlyn Duke of Neshoba Central High School tripled in the bottom of the fourth, scoring Anna Katherine Nowell of Leake Academy, who had singled.

Kankakee answered and then some in the top of the sixth, scoring all five of its runs on four hits, including two home runs, to take a 5-1 lead. East Central was unable to score again as the Cavaliers claimed the national title.

ECCC fought its way to the championship game by defeating Des Moines 12-7 in a rematch Saturdaymorning before beating Johnson County Community College out of Kansas 6-2 on Saturday afternoon in the final elimination game.

The win over Johnson County put the Lady Diamond Warriors in the championship against
Kankakee, needing to beat the Cavaliers twice.

Against Johnson County, Maegen Ellis, a product of Oak Hill Academy in West Point, hit a grand slam in the top of the seventh inning to break a 2-2 tie and give the Lady Diamond Warriors the 6-2 victory.

In the win over Des Moines in the first game on Saturday, the lead changed hands six times. With the score tied 7-7 going into the top of the eighth, East Central scored five times to take the 12-7 win, powered by a grand slam off the bat of Duke.

ECCC opened tournament play Wednesday, May 13, with a 3-2 win over No. 12 seed Macomb Community College out of Michigan, followed by the 16-2 loss to No. 4 seed Des Moines and a 7-0 win over No. 14 seed Mercyhurst North East of Pennsylvania on Thursday. On Friday, the Lady Diamond Warriors got a dramatic 2-1 bottom of the eighth inning win over No. 1 tournament seed and No. 4 ranked Phoenix College out of Arizona, followed by a 3-2 victory over No. 7 seed Lincoln Land Community College out of Illinois to advance to play Saturday.

Lady Diamond Warrior outfielder Duke won the Marucci Elite Hitter Award as the tournament’s top batter. First baseman Mahalia Gibson of Oak Grove High School, second baseman Mallory Turner of West Lauderdale High School, and pitcher Lacey Hill of Kilbourne (La.) High School were named to the All-Tournament Team.

Duke had 10 hits in the eight games, including a home run, a triple, and two doubles. She knocked in 10 runs. Gibson had nine hits, including four doubles and a home run and six RBIs. Turner had 10 hits and two RBIs. Hill pitched 43.1 innings over seven games, winning four and losing one with two no-decisions. She struck out 36 batters.

The tournament was played May 13-16 at Traceway Park in Clinton.