TUCSON, Arizona — Nothing truly worthwhile happens without sacrifice and coach Ron Faubion’s LadyStorm proved that beyond doubt in the NCAA D-II Leadoff Classic here Friday in perhaps the greatest single day in Southeastern softball history.
Unranked Southeastern knocked off No. 8 Augustana College 1-0, then came back to score two runs on two singles and three-consecutive sacrifice bunts in the bottom of the seventh to edge No. 2 California-San Diego 2-1.
“We’ve had some great wins over the years,” Faubion said, “but we’ve never beaten two top-8 teams in the same day.We definitely had to manufacture some runs, but we knew that going into the season. “Our kids just kept battling. We were down 1-0 going into the seventh against UC-San Diego and had only two hits and just two runners reach second base. Nobody in our dugout thought we wouldn’t find a way to win.
“I couldn’t be more proud of a team than I was Friday. We had two pitchers’ duels and managed to win both. It has be exciting for our kids and our fans when we can score three runs and win two games like this, especially the way we won the second game.
“None of this will mean a thing when we hit the field again (Saturday against No. 6 Minnesota-Mankato State and Missouri-St. Louis. We’ll enjoy it for a short while and just go back to work.”
The LadyStorm improved to 10-3 overall with Colbert sophomore Jacee Bennett collecting both wins to run her record to 7-1 with one save. In her spare time she scored the winning run in game two and got the win in relief.
Hits were about as scare as runs with the Storm picking up four in each game. Whitney Hamilton was the lone SE player with multiple hits when she went two for two in the second game while starting the winning rally with a leadoff infield single.
Mindy McElroy blanked UCSD through five innings, allowing only four hits and walking one.
NCAA D-II Leadoff Classic
LadyStorm 1 v. Augustana College 0
Bennett allowed only six runners, one on a walk, and only one reached third base. She struck out the side in the fourth on just 15 pitches and whiffed at least one in each of the first six innings.
Southeastern delivered the only run Bennett needed when second baseman and leadoff hitter Jessica Simmons led off with a walk and promptly stole second. Paige Priest singled and Darrian Williams followed with a single to drive in Simmons with the eventual winning run.
The Storm had base runners in the second, fourth, fifth and seventh and left five stranded.
The Vikings’ Janelle Trautman was a 20-game winner last year, but coudn’t handle the Storm in Augustana’s first game of the season.
Simmons, Priest, Williams and Courtney Moore, the top four in the batting order, each had one hit for the winners. Williams drove in the only run of the game.
The Vikings (0-1) had four players with one hit each.
LadyStorm 2 v. California-San Diego 1
McElroy was in control until a pair of singles started a Tritons’ rally in the sixth. She allowed no runs on four hits and walked one.
Bennett came on to stifle the threat in the sixth before allowing an unearned run in the top of the seventh. She gave up one earned run on one hit, walked one, struck out one and picked up her second win of the day.
A two-base throwing error opened the seventh for the Tritons. A sacrifice bunt and a single did the damage.
The Storm’s storybook rally started with Hamilton’s infield hit to short and continued when Bennett dropped a ball in the middle of the San Diego pitcher, shortstop and second baseman.
Faubion had inserted Kaija Morris to run for Hamilton and her speed allowed her to reach second and avoid the force out.
Laramie Beal dropped a sacrifice bunt to move the runners to second and third with one out. Lacie Cook’s sac bunt plated Morris just ahead of the throw to tie the game.
Rachel Jones put down the third-consecutive bunt and Bennett hit home plate like a fullback on third and goal from the one to complete the improbably rally and score the winning run.
Hamilton led the Storm with two for two and started the winning rally. Bennett and Cook were one for one each.