FARMINGTON — The Mineral Area College softball program is only in its third year of existence, but in that time the Lady Cardinals have won three Region 16 titles, and with their two wins over the Murray State Aggies on Friday in the District J Tournament, they will now make their second trip to the NJCAA Division 2 National Championships held in Normal, Illinois starting on May 19.
The Lady Cardinals defeated the Aggies 3-2 in a defensive gem in game one, but they muscled up offensively in game two for a 13-2 clincher.
Mineral Area 3, Murray State 2
It took the bottom of the seventh inning before a winner would emerge in the first game. With the score tied at 2-2, two Aggie errors to lead off the inning set the table for Mineral Area. A sacrifice bunt by Callie Dennis put both runners in scoring position, but Kim Billie pitched her first strike-out to make it two outs as North County graduate Jamie Bullock came to the plate.
Bullock, who was 0-1 with two sacrifice bunts, came through with a grounder up the middle for the game-winning hit.
Pitcher Alex Perry had great help from her defense behind her as the Lady Cardinals, despite committing four errors, closed out three innings with double plays.
Both teams collected on each other’s mistakes to start the scoring. In trying to get Beth Winckel at third base in the second inning, an errant throw sailed into the outfield and Winckel rushed home to break the scoreless game. Winckel had reached base on a lead-off single, and was able to take three bases on a sacrifice bunt by Bullock with two bases coming on the error.
The Lady Cardinals gave back the run instantly to start the third inning. A dropped fly in the outfield, resulted in Billie trying to reach third. The relay throw to third went into the Aggies dugout instead, and Billie trotted home with the tying run.
After turning their second double play, the Lady Cardinals manufactured the lead again in the fourth inning. Dennis led off with a walk, and Winckel folowed with a single, to have Bullock move them over with her second sacrifice bunt. Melanie Hager made their hard work pay off with a RBI single.
Murray State answered immediately again. A lead-off double by Kelsey Rowland was followed by Lorna Fothergill’s sacrifice bunt, and an infield single by Brianna Bryant again tied the score.
Both teams stranded runners in nearly every inning. The Aggies left six runners on base with five in scoring position as Perry pitched out of jam after jam. Mineral Area stranded eight runners with five in scoring position as Billie also pitched out of several jams.
Mineral Area 13, Murray St. 2
The Lady Cardinals started game two with two quick runs before the fireworks began. Allyson Luce led off the top of the first with a single to jump-start MAC’s offense. Luce would go 3-3 in the game with a double. Callie Dennis followed with a two-run single to start the scoring.
Murray State’s Courtney Dodson drove a horizontal shot over the left field fence to lead off the bottom of the second in cutting MAC’s lead in half.
Dodson’s home run was like an invite to the Lady Cardinals to respond, and they did - in grand style. Luce again hit a lead-off single to start the third inning, but it was all MAC-power after that. Emily Hanquist hit her first pitch over the left-field fence to make it 4-1.
Bismarck graduate Tori Henson hit a solo shot to make it back-to-back yards, and two batters later Dennis hit one to nearly the same spot for the Lady Cardinals third home run of the inning, and also chasing Murray State’s starter.
Mineral Area (36-16) scored six more runs in the fourth. Luce hit a double and Henson followed with an RBI single to start the inning’s scoring. Dennis picked up her fourth and fifth RBI of the game with a double, but it would be a three-run blast by Bullock that capped the scoring deluge.
Fothergill hit a sacrifice fly to end the Aggies scoring in the fourth inning with only the second run on North County grad Jennifer Hackworth, but pinch-hitter Erica Inman, also from North County, matched the run with a solo home run for Mineral Area’s fifth round-tripper.
Murray State 001 010 0 - 2 8 1
Mineral Area 010 100 1 - 3 13 4
WP- Alex Perry 7i 2r 8h 4k 0bb, LP- Kim Billie 6 1/3i 3r 13h 1k 1bb.
Murray State - Jacquelyn Martin 2-3, Kaija Morris 2-3, Courtney Dodson 1-3, Sierra Golia 1-3, Kelsey Rowland 1-3, Brianna Bryant 1-4.
Mineral Area - Kelly Kelm 3-3, Melanie Hager 2-3, Tori Henson 2-4, Alex Perry 2-3, Beth Winckel 2-4, Jamie Bullock 1-2, Allyson Luce 1-4. 2b- Kelm.
Mineral Area 204 61 - 13 11 1
Murray State 010 10 - 2 6 0
WP- Jennifer Hackworth 5i 2r 6h 4k 1bb, LP- Kenzie Reed 2 1/3i 6r 6h 0k 1bb.
Murray State - Courtney Henson 1-2, Jacquelyn Marrin 1-3, Courtney Dodson 1-3, Karisa Crwaford 1-2. HR- Dodson.
Mineral Area - Allyson Luce 3-3, Callie Dennis 3-3, Tori Henson 2-2, Erica Inamn 1-1, Jamie Bullock 1-3, Emily Hanquist 1-3. HR- Hanquist, Henson, Dennis, Bullock, Inman. 2b- Luce, Dennnis.