GREAT BEND— The McPherson College Softball wrapped up the 2019 KCAC Tournament on Saturday, going 1-1, defeating Tabor College 1-0, but then being eliminated in the next round, 5-4, by Ottawa University.
The Bulldogs suffered their first loss of the tournament on Friday, falling to Friends University 3-2. The format for the tournament was double elimination, so the loss dropped them into the loser's bracket, where they squared off against Tabor at 2:30 on Saturday afternoon. The game against the Bluejays turned into a pitchers' duel between Tabor's Madison Byrd, the 2018 KCAC Pitcher of the Year, and McPherson's Brittany Baroni, the 2019 KCAC Newcomer of the Year.
Neither team was able to get things going offensively in regulation, so the game went into extra innings. Baroni set down the Bluejays in order in the top of the eighth, and the Bulldogs ended up winning the game 1-0 with a walk off hit in the next half inning.
Baroni was fantastic for the Bulldogs in the circle. She pitched a complete game, shutting out the Bluejays on just two hits with three strikeouts and two walks. On the other side, Byrd was nearly as good for the Bluejays. She gave up just one run on four hits by the Bulldogs, and finished with 10 strikeouts.
The four Bulldog hits were all singles by Destiny Bacon, Payten Davies, Ali Smith and Jessica Jones. Jones' hit was the game winner, coming in the bottom of the eighth and driving in Davies, who had started the inning with a hit.
The win kept the Bulldogs alive in the Tournament, and they immediately took the field again. This time against Ottawa University, that had eliminated the Kansas Wesleyan University in its elimination game.
The Bulldogs sent Christie Betker, the 2019 KCAC Pitcher of the Year, into the circle for the start. She worked the first five innings, giving up three runs on seven hits, with five strikeouts and one walk. When she left the game after the fifth inning, the Bulldogs had a one run lead 4-3. The Bulldog coaching staff elected to bring back Baroni, who had been lights out in game one, to try and close out the Braves in game two. She worked the final two innings, and was charged with two runs on four hits, and ultimately picked up the loss. She didn't pitch badly, but the Bulldogs had a couple of mental mistakes that ultimately led to two runs for the Braves, that put them ahead leading into the final inning.
The Bulldog offense managed four runs on nine hits against the Braves, but they stranded 13 runners on base. Jenna Christensen led the Bulldog attack with a 3-for-4 performance from the dish, that included a run scored, and another driven in. She was joined in the multi-hit club by Kylecia Taylor, and Jones who were both 2-for-5 on the afternoon. Taylor had the lone extra base hit for the Bulldogs, a triple in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Bulldogs Head Coach Tony Segovia commented on the performance of his team saying, "Super proud of these kids. We fought hard just couldn't get some timely hits. We made a few uncharacteristic mistakes that hurt us, but we pitched it well enough to win. We still have an outside shot to keep playing on, but if we don't get that chance, you can't hang your head because we had such a great season. Anytime you can win over 30 games and a regular season title, you have to tip your hat to these ladies. Again, super proud of them buying in to us coaches and thankful for all the hard work they put into making history."
Segovia alluded to, despite being eliminated from the tournament, the Bulldogs still have a chance of making the NAIA playoffs. The KCAC gets two automatic berths into the NAIA National Tournament, one for the regular season champ, and the other to the winner of the tournament. If that happens to be the same team, then the regular season runner-up would receive the second bid. Even though McPherson and Avila shared the regular season title, Avila had the tie breaker over the Bulldogs and receives the regular season bid to nationals.
They lost to Friends in the first game on Saturday, but came back to defeat Ottawa in the final elimination game of the day. They will meet Friends again on Sunday at 1 p.m. in the championship game. They will have to beat the Falcons twice in order to take the tournament crown.