WNCC softball earns Region IX title
     2016-05-13      By Media Report    editor@geringcitizen.com
The Western Nebraska Community College softball team loves dramatic finishes and they received another dramatic win Saturday in the Region IX championship series against Trinidad State Junior College.

Facing a 3-0 deficit in the bottom of the sixth, the Cougars scored four times with dramatic hit being a 3-run home run by Kenzie Sawyer that lifted the Cougars to back-to-back Region IX titles as they dropped Trinidad State 4-3 in the third game of the best of three series Saturday at Volunteer Field.

The win was the Cougars 53rd of the season, but more importantly it sends the Cougars to the District E playoff against Butler Community College on Wednesday in Eldorado, Kansas. Game times are set for 5 and 7 p.m. The winner advances to the NJCAA national tournament Nov. 18-21 in St. George, Utah.

Saturday’s win was no-doubt dramatic to the players and fans.

“It is unbelievable,” an excited Sawyer said after the game. “I am so excited. The team is so excited. It is crazy.”

What the game came down to was a couple big hits by both teams since the pitchers were controlling the offense. In fact, Trinidad’s Jessica Salbato and WNCC’s Andy Hancock and Whitney Fields allowed just five hits between them. Salbato struck out seven in the game while Hancock and Fields fanned a combined four. Ironically, it was two, 3-run home runs that brought in almost all the runs.

Sawyer’s jack in the sixth, however, was the momentum the Cougars needed considering before that inning, Salbato was pitching a one-hitter. Sawyer said that hit felt good.

“I have been struggling a lot this series,” she said. “But as soon as I hit it I knew it was going over the fence. I was so excited that I sprinted around the bases.”

Not one person at Volunteer Field even didn’t think differently either about Sawyer’s bomb by the all-time Cougar home run hitter. The clutch home run was a monster shot that switched the momentum on the field.

“We knew we had to string base hits together,” Sawyer said. “We have a really good offense and we know that if one person doesn’t get the job done, the next person we do it. We have a lot of trust in our offense.”

Andy Hancock, who started the game and went 3 2/3 innings before giving way to Whitney Fields for the final 3 1/3 innings, said the way they won the game is unreal.

“For some reason I guess we like to give the crowd a show, but it feels really good because that was definitely a team win,” the sophomore pitcher from Utah said. “Everyone did their job and everyone came out and helped when someone was down. It felt nice that we reached a goal that we have been having all year, and to do it on our home field is a very good feeling.”

Even Hancock said that this year’s team doesn’t give up in a game. WNCC has won a number of games this season in the sixth and seventh innings and Saturday’s championship game was no exception.

“We definitely didn’t lose confidence [entering the last innings],” Hancock said. “We know that we are a very good hitting team and if we put the ball in play, the people behind us will help us out. We really relied on people in this game.

“That home run was very big that people were on base so she [kenzie] had more than one run that she scored,” Hancock said. “It was good that people were doing their job before her.”

Neither team could do much offensively through the first three innings. It was the fourth inning that Trinidad broke on top with a towering 2-out, 3-run home run by Olivia Muniz. The lead stayed that way until the sixth when the Cougars finally got something going.

Celyn Whitt started things by reaching on an error. After Whitney Fields sacrificed Whitt to second, Courtney Medina doubled home Whitt for the first run of the game for the Cougars.

Christian Bobian then drew a walk to put the tying runs on base.
Sawyer then stepped to the plate with two outs with her previous two appearances at the plate resulting in a strike out and a lazy groundout.

This time Sawyer took the 1-1 count and delivered the next pitch over the fence.

Fields then came into the seventh and made quick work of the Trojans getting a strikeout and then infield a line-out to Bobian and the game-ending flyout to Whitt.

Hancock said that next week they have to continue to play team ball if they want to beat Butler, who is 47-4 on the season.

“We will have to go out and do what we did today, play as a team, play Cougar ball, and play for the people that played before us that went through this program,” Hancock said. “We have a lot of people to make proud and that is our goal, to go out and make people proud.”

Several Cougars also earned all-region honors after the game.
Hancock and Fields were named as All-Region pitchers, Lauren Oxford All-Region catcher, Haille Weber and Medina All-Region outfielders, Bobian and Whitt All-Region infielders, and Sawyer as All-Region utility player.

Weber was named the Region IX Player of the Year, while the Cougar coaching staff (Maria Winn-Ratliff, Katie Groves, and Jack Massey) were named the Coaches of the year.

Other members of the all-region team include Trinidad’s Jessica Salbato as pitcher, Samantha Glover as outfielder, and Isabella Navarro as infielder as well as Freshman of the Year; Otero’s Taylor Hansel as catcher, and K’Lee Kent as designated player; McCook’s Kendall Yasui as outfielder and Kenzie Bilger as infielder; and Lamar’s Bailey Douglas as infielder.

Championship Game

Trinidad 000 300 0 – 3 2 1

WNCC (53-11) 000 004 x – 4 3 0

WP – Whitney Fields, LP Jessica Salbato; 2B – WNCC (Courtney Medina)’ HR – WNCC (Kenzie Sawyer), TSJC (Olivia Muniz).

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