MARSHALL, Texas - The Claremont-Mudd-Scripps softball team fought to the bitter end in the championship game of the NCAA West Region Super Regional. After losing the first game of the series on Friday, the Athenas' faced elimination from the tournament on Saturday afternoon. CMS heroically won the first game of the day 6-4 to necessitate a third game and then, after leading that game until the seventh inning, gave up a three-run walk-off homer to end the game and season.
CMS jumped out to a three run lead in the second inning of the first game. Sophomore Carlene Roberts started the rally by smacking a single up the middle and then scored off sophomore Mikayla O'Neal's double down the left field line. Sophomore Janelle Shiozaki added two more RBI with another single to score O'Neal and sophomore Shannon O'Neill who had walked to get on base.
ETBU responded in the fourth inning with a run only to spur the Athenas to tack on three more in the bottom of the inning. Senior Morgan Beltz led off with a single and marched around the bases due to two more singles by sophomores Tara Robinson and Katie Savard. A timely hit batter allowed another Athena to cross the plate.
Similar to Friday's game, the Tigers came on strong in the fifth inning, scoring two and cutting CMS' lead to just three runs. Veteran pitcher Hayley Schultz held ETBU to three runs during her four innings of work.
As tough to handle as ETBU's offense was, freshman reliever Kaylilani Minami had a strong performance and limited the Tigers to only two runs in the fifth and left the bases loaded. Minami pitched the rest of the game and earned the save.
With the win, CMS had every confidence they were not only capable of beating ETBU but the momentum was in their favor.
After a delay between games, both teams took the field knowing that each of their seasons hung on the outcome of the game in front of them.
ETBU did not wait to score and quickly jumped on Minami to score one in the first.
Facing the Tigers' Shelby Parker again, the Athenas struggled to string together any offense until the fourth inning. Tara Robinson led things off with a bunt single and kick-started the Athena hitting. Sophomore Brooklyn Robinson singled and then Tara Robinson beat out a throw trying to get her at third base off a hit by Savard. With the bases loaded and no outs, Roberts knocked in a run to tie the score. CMS scored another to break the tie on a deep fly ball that got caught in the sun in left field.
Minami was relieved by Schlutz in the fourth after her stellar start. Schultz, as the Athenas' ace, came out with guns blazing and determination in her eyes.
O'Neill started another rally in the fifth and stole second base to get into scoring position. After a pair of walks, the bases were loaded for Roberts who delivered again.
The Athenas added a fourth and final run in the top of the seventh to give CMS a three run advantage going into the bottom of the inning.
Just three outs away from punching their ticket to the Division III Women's College World Series, the Athenas were faced with the top of the potent Tiger lineup. A hit batter and two consecutive singles later, CMS still had the 4-2 lead but had not managed to record any outs yet. Freshman and most prolific hitter in the lineup Lacey Lindsey stepped to the plate and promptly drove a ball sky high and out of the park for a three-run walk-off homerun, dashing the Athenas' hopes for a longer season.
Roberts finished the game going 3-for-4 with three RBI. On the tournament, Brooklyn Robinson led the team hitting .714.
The Athenas finish at 32-15 with a record-breaking four wins in the NCAA Tournament. This season, the small and mighty CMS team accomplished incredible feats including winning the program's first NCAA Regional Championship in addition to the third consecutive SCIAC Tournament Championship.