Skipjacks gamely gave their all at high-powered tourney
Chesapeake 0-5 at Leadoff Classic, but competitive in majority of games
PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. They started the 2011 NFCA Junior College Leadoff Classic without any wins and left the same way. In between, however, Chesapeake College’s women’s softball players obtained a myriad of valuable experiences.
"We knew going in there was serious competition in this tournament," said Chesapeake head coach Durrie Hayes. "The girls reacted well to the whole experience. They’ve seen how good the talent is in junior college softball. There are some extraordinarily good junior college teams and most of them were in this tournament."
Three of the Skipjacks’ five games were competitive: a 3-2 loss to Indians Hills Community College-Ottumwa in their tournament opener; a 5-3 setback against Mercyhurst North East; a 5-2 defeat versus defending NJCAA Division II national champion Muskegon Community College. And even the two contests stopped by the mercy rule 11-0 against San Jacinto College-South and 13-0 against Chipola College could prove valuable down the road.
"They’ve seen how good they need to be," said Hayes of his Skipjacks (0-5). "They spent a lot of time being observant. It’s part of learning how to play against good teams."
Several Skipjacks thrived in the highly competitive atmosphere, including sophomore Tiffeny Ricks and freshman Becca Wooten, who hit .462 and .400, respectively. Pitcher Amber Labille, who may have had a victory derailed by a questionable illegal pitch call, posted a 4.50 ERA against top-flight competition.
Chesapeake’s best chance for a win came against Indian Hills as the Skipjacks used a two-run fourth to break a scoreless tie. Sarah Spicher started the rally with a one-out walk and Becca English singled pinch runner Carlie Budd to second. Budd scored on an overthrow while stealing third and English beat a throw home on a Lowenberger grounder to make it 2-0.
Labille was working on a shutout with two outs in the home fifth when Indian Hills strung together four straight hits to tie the game. The Skipjacks appeared out of the inning on a flyout during the Indian Hills rally, but an illegal pitch call on the play kept the inning going.
It’s a shame to play as well as we played against a team of that caliber and have an off-the-wall call like that impact the game,’ lamented Hayes, who said the illegal pitch call came on a pitch that "wasn’t any different than any other pitch she’d thrown that game."
After the Skipjacks wasted a two-out, two-on threat in the top of the sixth, Indian Hills pushed across the winning run in the bottom half of the inning. Lindsay Evans, who led off the home sixth with a single, eventually scored on a groundout.
The Skipjacks also built early leads against both Muskegon and Mercyhurst, but couldn’t sustain the momentum. Chelsea Hunt had a run-scoring fielder’s choice and English scored on a wild pitch during a two-run fourth inning, but Muskegon answered with four runs in the bottom half of the inning against Labille. None of Muskegon’s fourth-inning runs were earned as the Skipjacks committed four errors.
The Skipjacks took early 2-1 and 3-2 leads against Mercyhurst only to have Mercyhurst break a 3-3 tie with two runs in the top of the fourth inning. Ricks, Lowenberger and Kelsi Robinson (triple) each had two hits and an RBI.
The Skipjacks head back to Florida this week for a 10-game spring break trip before returning to play visiting Prince George’s Community College on March 23rd in their Maryland Junior College Athletic Conference opener.
"I think they’ve already started to apply the lessons they’ve learned," said Hayes, adding, "This is the best 0-5 team I’ve ever been associated with."
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