AUM beats William Carey 10-6 to capture first softball National Championship
By Alfred Kojima, NAIA
COLUMBUS, GA: No. 2 Auburn Montgomery (Ala.) bounced back from its loss against No 6 William Carey (Miss.) in the first championship game with a 10-6 victory in the “if necessary” championship game of the 2014 NAIA Softball World Series at the South Commons Softball Complex on Thursday. The “if necessary” game was played for the first time since 2011.
It is the first-ever national championship for the Auburn Montgomery (44-7) Warhawks in the sport of softball and for head coach Christina Steiner Wilcoxson in only their sixth year of existence. The only coach in the history of the program is 234-97-2 overall. The Warhawks become the 21st different school to claim a NAIA softball World Series title in the 34-year history.
The Montgomery, Ala., school has now won 23 NAIA national championships overall, with 22 previous NAIA national titles in men’s and women’s tennis. It is also the second NAIA Softball National Championship for the state of Alabama. The University of Mobile claimed the 1996 NAIA Softball World Series championship in 2006.
“I’m very emotional right now. I’ve always wanted it for our program and our kids. This is what we fought for from the first day we started the program.” Wilcoxson said. “From what our dreams and our goals were, I can’t believe it’s a reality right now.”
William Carey competed in its seventh game of the World Series. After posting a 7-4 victory to force the if-necessary game earlier in the day, the Crusaders conclude the event with five victories and an overall season record of 52-12 overall.
“The only thing you can ask as a coach is for your team to fight to the very end.” Crusader head coach Wendy Hogue said. “The team fought hard the entire time, the entire World Series and I couldn’t be more proud being the coach of this team.”
The Crusaders had nine hits in the title game, two each by junior Caroline Walker and senior Jasmine Shelby.
The Warhawks continued the streak of taking advantage of scoring early. Including the two games played on Thursday, teams that scored first managed to win 18 of the 19 games played.
Held to four runs in the first game, Auburn Montgomery had four base hits and jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning. Sophomore Kayla Hale produced an RBI groundout. Junior Jade Sasser had a two-RBI double and sophomore pitcher Taylor Powell added an RBI single.
The score held until the fourth inning. Warhawk senior Sarah Beckman reached on a fielding error and scored on an RBI double by Shelby.
In the top of the fifth, sophomore Kayla Hale blasted her sixth home run of the season over the left field fence. In the bottom half of the inning, the Crusaders managed to load the bases with two out, however Powell got Crusader junior Relanda McFarland to line out to third to end the inning.
The Warhawks broke the game open with a five-run sixth inning. An RBI single by junior Katie Spain and a run by freshman Therese Byrne on the front end of a double steal was followed by a three-run home run by Hale, her second of the game and seventh of the season.
Facing a run-rule loss, the Crusaders extended the game in the bottom of the sixth inning when Beckman hit a two-run home run, her eighth of the season.
The Crusaders made it interesting in the bottom of the seventh. An RBI sacrifice fly by Beckman, an unearned run and a bases-loaded single by Russell plated three runs to make it a 10-6 game. Junior pitcher Cassie Daniels entered the game with two outs, the bases loaded, and the tying run at the plate. Daniels, who earned her first save of the season, induced a ground ball for the final out of the game.
The 10 runs scored by Auburn Montgomery is the second-most in World Series history and the most since Oklahoma City notched a 12-0 victory in the 1997 contest.
The 34th Annual Softball World Series is a 10-team, double-elimination event hosted by the Columbus Sports Council.
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At the conclusion of the World Series, the following individuals were named to the 2014 NAIA Softball All-World Series Team.
World Series Most Valuable Player: Cassie Daniels, Auburn Montgomery (Ala.)