By Austin Gwin, Sports Writer
The Wildcat softball team has won 42 times this season, tying the school record. More importantly the Wildcats have advanced to the finals in the Lone Star Conference tournament.
With the No. 1 seed and on their home field, the Wildcats dominated the south side of the LSC bracket en route to three victories last weekend. Both sides of the ball impressed the fans who came from all over the southwest to see their respective teams. The defense allowed a mere four runs in the three wins, while the offense scored 21 runs.
“Our focus and our intensity were amazing,” head coach Chantiel Wilson said. “We are really playing as a team and gelling together well. It’s obvious our girls have a lot of respect for each other out on the field.”
In the opening round game Friday against Midwestern State, the Wildcats scored in the first inning and let the pitching and defense take care of the rest. A two-run double in the bottom of the first courtesy of Nancy Sawyers proved to be the game-winning hit in a 3-0 game. ACU added the insurance run in the sixth when Jackie Gentile hit a solo shot off the scoreboard. On the mound for ACU, ace Jacques Gregoire was phenomenal, pitching her fourth complete game shutout of the season. The win improves her overall record to 20-4.
Saturday was not much different for the Wildcats as they shut down upstart West Texas A&M 10-2. The previous day, the Lady Buffs had upset second-seeded Central Oklahoma 19-1. But the Wildcats would have none of that. Down 2-0 after two innings, Katie Cornelison singled home Sawyers to bring the game within one. In the third, however, the fireworks began. With the bases loaded and one out, Sawyers came up to bat. As she did all tournament long, she delivered, hitting a grand slam down the left field line that gave ACU a 5-2 advantage it would not relinquish. Sawyer’s RBI double in the fifth extended the lead to 6-2, and after four more ACU runs, the game was called due to the run rule. Gregoire picked up the win for the Wildcats.
On Sunday, the Wildcats kept their momentum with a victory over Central Oklahoma. In the first round, the Wildcats went up early after back-to-back homers by Melissa Rodriguez, and Sawyers gave them a 3-0 lead. Another homer, this time by Jenny Kulp, and two unearned runs off Broncho errors put ACU at its final tally of seven. Kim Partin picked up the win for her 11th of the season. She allowed two runs, one in the fourth and one in the sixth, but ultimately they meant nothing as the weekend belonged to the Wildcats.
Not only did the Wildcats succeed as a team this season, but some individuals were honored before the tournament Thursday night. Jessica Shiery, Gregoire and Sawyers made first team All-LSC South Division. Shiery also took home the LSC South Division Player of the Year award.
“[Shiery] is a tremendous athlete and softball player. She has worked really hard this year, and she has been a big leader to this team. She is very deserving of the award,” Wilson said.
Wilson was awarded with 2009 Coach of the Year honors for the LSC South Division as well.
Next weekend brings a challenge for the Wildcats; they will play host to rival Angelo State. The Rambelles are ranked fifth in the nation and took two of three from ACU in early April. The Wildcats will not only have a chance for revenge, but the opportunity to win the entire LSC tournament. The first game of the best of three series will be Friday night at 5 p.m. at Poly Wells Field.