The Ravens erased a 2-1 deficit with a five-run explosion on their way to a 6-3 championship game triumph over Manchester on Saturday afternoon. AU will find out Monday where they will play in the NCAA Division III tournament next weekend.
“We’ve always been good at fighting back,” said AU junior center fielder Katie Lee. “Our offense has come through all year.”
AU struck first again, though for the first time in the tournament, it wasn’t in the first inning.
In the second, Megan Ream walked with two out. Katy Ogden slapped a single toward the right-field line. Ream hit second base at full tilt on her way to third. Spartans’ right fielder Shannon Stephan bobbled the ball trying to transfer it from her glove to her hand. She threw the ball to second to keep Ogden at first.
But Ream never slowed down and scored without a play for a 1-0 AU lead.
Ream played a part in the top of the third for Manchester when the Spartans took the lead.
With two outs and nobody on base, Amy Hommema drew a walk from AU starting hurler Monica Crowe. Emily Williams doubled to right-center on a ball that just eluded a diving Lee. That tied the game at 1-1.
Kayla Yates was up next, and she drove a ball to deep left field. Ream quickly found the fence, leaped and prevented the ball from leaving the yard. But the ball didn’t stay in her glove. Yates stopped at second, and the Spartans were up 2-1.
“I was mostly just disappointed I didn’t catch it,” said Ream. “Some people have said that it was going over the fence. Maybe it was.”
When Yates was stranded at second by Crowe striking out Danielle Howell, it was obvious that Ream had saved a run.
“Megan changed the game with her play,” said AU coach Tony Holloway. “If they score that run and take a two-run lead, it can make a big difference in the way the game is played.”
In the bottom of the fourth, the Ravens took command.
[Photo: AU pitcher Monica Crowe delivers to the plate on Saturday, May 5 during the HCAC title game.]
Lauren Smith, one of five Ravens voted to the All-HCAC Tournament Team, opened with a single and moved to second on a sac bunt by Stephanie Atkins. Ream and Ogden walked to load the bases for freshman Tori Price.
“We moved Tori into the No. 9 slot today because we wanted to get more balls to the outfield,” said Holloway. “We knew it was a lot of pressure for a freshman.”
Price delivered with a long fly to deep left-center. It was easily deep enough to score Smith, but Kendall Jeffries dropped the ball. The score was tied at 2-2, and the Ravens still had the bases loaded with one out.
Lee cracked a two-run single up the middle, and Amy Wuestefeld followed with another two-run single to center. It was 6-2, and AU was done scoring. The Spartans weren’t.
Manchester got a run in the fifth on a leadoff home run by Kylie Planck.
In the top of the seventh, the Spartans threatened on singles by Holly Morris and by Jeffries. Holloway removed Crowe and brought in Devin Moorman. The two pitchers hugged at the third-base line as the change was made.
“I didn’t mind going out at all,” said Crowe. “The team is always the most important. I have full confidence in Devin.”
But there was a bit more excitement to be had.
Hommema lined the ball into center.
“I didn’t read the ball very well,” said Lee, who initially came in a bit on the ball. “I thought it was going over my head. I just hoped it wasn’t going over the fence.”
She leaped and brought the ball and the tournament title down with her.
“We’ve played that way pretty much all year,” said Holloway. “We pretty much don’t worry about whether we are up or down. Now we’ll just sit back and wait to see where the committee sends us.”
Joining Smith on the all-tournament team were Yardley Collett, Ream, Lee, and Crowe.
— Rick Teverbaugh is sports editor for The Herald Bulletin. Reposted with permission.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing, and theology.