Focus on Students
Skipjacks draw five-time national champion
Chesapeake opens softball national tournament against top-ranked Phoenix
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Chesapeake College President Dr. Barbara Viniar wishes head coach Durrie Hayes and his women’s softball team good luck as they prepare to board the bus Tuesday for the trip to the airport on their way to the NJCAA Division II national tournament.
NORMAL, Ill. Durrie Hayes always wants his teams playing the best available competition.
He’ll get his wish in the NJCAA Division II women’s softball national championship tournament.
Chesapeake College (23-13) drew top-ranked, five-time defending national champion Phoenix (Ariz.) College (52-9) as its opening-round opponent. The Skipjacks and Bears open the double-elimination tournament Thursday with a 10 a.m. contest.
"Why not?" said Hayes about playing Phoenix right off the bat. "We’ll need some breaks, but stranger things have happened. I doubt the line in Vegas is on us, but why not play them and see what happens?"
Chesapeake College Athletic Director Frank Szymanski agreed.
"How many teams get an opportunity to play the best team in the country on the biggest stage?" said Szymanski, whose baseball team was able to take on national champion Grand Rapids (Mich.) Community College as part of its World Series experience in 2005.
The Skipjacks, meanwhile, are still trying to wrap their collective heads around the fact that they have won the school’s first Region XX softball title in more than a quarter-century.
"It really hasn’t hit me yet. Maybe it will when we’re on the plane," said infielder/pitcher Melanie Buck, prior to the team’s Tuesday night flight to Illinois.
"I guess we didn’t expect it," said shortstop Jordan Glessner. "Durrie was always talking about how we could do it (win a region title)."
Ironically, it was the Skipjacks who rolled undefeated through their regional tournament while Phoenix had to come back through the losers’ bracket to win its 10th straight Region I championship. Glendale Community College routed Phoenix, 10-2, in the winners’ bracket finals, but the Bears played their way back to the finals and swept Glendale, 12-4 and 7-6, to secure the championship.
Chesapeake pitcher Jordan Wright, who has a 4-0 playoff record, said the team really came together during their 4-3, come-from-behind win over the College of Southern Maryland in the first round of the regional tournament. The Skipjacks rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win that game despite a season-ending injury to pitcher Jill Piasecki, who had established herself as one of the top pitchers in the league.
"The fact that she was able to come with us to regionals really kept our spirits up," said Wright, noting Piasecki has been at every playoff game despite having three teeth dislodged by a line drive back through the box.
If the Skipjacks beat Phoenix, they will play the winner of the game between No. 5 LSU-Eunice (34-14) and Johnson County (Overland Park, Kan.) Community College (33-11). If Chesapeake loses, the Skipjacks play the LSU-Eunice/Johnson County loser. All 16 teams are guaranteed two games on Thursday.
The tournament runs through Saturday, with the championship game slated for 1 p.m. and the "if" game scheduled for 3 p.m.
The Skipjacks obviously peaked at just the right time, winning their last eight games after struggling most of the season to get above .500. Hayes, however, said the best experience his team can fall back on this week is how well it competed against national tournament teams during their spring break trip to Florida.
"The Florida trip was huge for us. It started the whole idea that we could play with anybody," said Hayes, who then began listing the teams Chesapeake played in Florida who are in the Division II national tournament. "Lansing (Community College) is there, and they are ranked second in the country. We only lost to Lansing, 6-1, and it was 2-1 in the fifth or sixth inning. Macomb is there and we lost to them 6-5 in Florida.
"We played two teams that are in the Division III tournament," added Hayes. "We lost twice to Monroe, ranked second in Division III, and we beat Tompkins Cortland twice. We’re not afraid of playing tough competition."
Notes: Hayes said he received some good advice from Phoenix College assistant coach Hank Schrader about building a top softball program a couple of years ago at a national conference, and he took the message to heart.
"Hank said, ’You don’t have to worry about being the best team in the nation, or the best team east of the Mississippi. The first thing you have to do is be the best in the region. You can’t jump from nowhere to the very top even we didn’t,’ " recalled Hayes. "It was a good piece of advice." . . .
Skipjack Jordan Wright has been named to the NJCAA Division II all-Region XX first team and teammate Erica Kinney was named to the all-region second team. Three Skipjacks Wright, Kinney and Jordan Glessner were selected to the all-Region XX tournament team. The Maryland Junior College Athletic Conference all-conference squads have not yet been released.
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