The AUM softball team earned the first NAIA Tournament berth in the program's four-year history on Saturday.
Softball - Sat. Apr. 28, 2012
COLUMBUS, Ga. ---- The Auburn University at Montgomery softball team earned the first berth to the NAIA Softball National Championship in the program's four-year history, as it finished as the runners-up of the 2012 Southern States Athletic Conference Softball Tournament Saturday at the South Commons Softball Complex.
The Warhawks (38-18) advanced to the championship game by No. 12 Shorter, 2-0, earlier in the day, and forced a deciding game in the championship with an 8-6 victory against No. 6 William Carey in their second game of the day. Despite its best efforts, AUM fell to the Crusaders, 3-0, in the winner-take-all championship game.
However, by advancing to the championship game, both the Warhawks and Crusaders were awarded at-large berths to the 32nd Annual NAIA Softball National Championship, held May 17-23 in Gulf Shores, Ala.
"I am extremely proud of our girls," head coach Chris Steiner-Wilcoxson said. "They gave every ounce of energy they had and left everything out on the field today. No other team has qualified for the NAIA Tournament or made it to the championship game at the conference tournament, so hopefully that will be something they remember forever. This was a total team effort and that is one of the big keys it takes to compete for championships."
In the contest against the Hawks, Brandi Richards put the Warhawks on her back, tossing a one-hit shutout to secure the at-large berth and send them to the championship game of the tournament.
Richards struck out 11 Shorter hitters and allowed just a fifth inning single to opposing pitcher Maddie Bray, as she improved to 13-9 on the season.
"With the game on the line, Brandi demanded the ball," Steiner-Wilcoxson said of her three-time NAIA All-American. "She did a great job of maintaining her composure and putting the team on her back against Shorter. She kept giving us a chance to come through at the plate. This tournament just added to her legacy at AUM."
Richards and Jyssica Pepper also added two hits each, while Shea Driggers and Haley Johnson each drove in runs.
Bray took the loss, allowing nine hits and two runs to fall to 14-5 on the season.
The Warhawks followed with a win against the Crusaders to force an "if-necessary" game two by pounded out 15 hits in the opener, including 10 against SSAC Pitcher of the Year Alyssa Boutwell.
Johnson paced the offense with three hits, while Richards, Driggers and Pepper had two hits each. Richards and Carol Ann McIntyre each drove in two runs, with McIntyre lining a two-run triple two highlight a five-run fourth inning.
Cassie Daniels (12-7) earned the victory, allowing three hits and two runs in three innings. Courtney Baker started the contest and allowed just four hits and two earned runs in the opening four frames.
Kelsey Jo Smith (11-1) took her first loss of the year, allowing two runs and five hits in relief.
William Carey captured the tournament crown with a 3-0 victory in the deciding game, as Tournament MVP Alli McCaleb tossed a four-hit shutout against the tiring Warhawks.
Driggers, Johnson, Katie Spain and Laci Driggers each had hits in the loss.
Johnson (4-2) suffered the loss, allowing six hits and three runs in four innings. Daniels allowed just one hit in the final two innings.
The Softball National Championship will be a 32-team tournament featuring 27 automatic qualifiers, one possible host berth and four to five at-large berths.