WSCC SOFTBALL: Season ends in NJCAA Division I National Championship quarterfinals after late Yavapai rally; Lions finish 55-6

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Morgan White had three hits for the Lions on Thursday, including a solo homer. (WSCC Athletics)

View pictures from Thursday’s game | https://www.flickr.com/photos/wallacestate/albums/72157719337756505

YUMA, ARIZ. – Wallace State softball’s season ended Thursday night at the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division I National Championship quarterfinals in Yuma, Ariz., losing 9-7 to Yavapai College. 

Yavapai (Ariz.) rallied for six runs in bottom of sixth, seizing a 9-5 advantage – its first lead of the game. Four of the six runs scored in the deciding inning were unearned at the Pacific Avenue Athletic Complex.

Wallace State plated a pair of runs in the top of the seventh, ending the game with the tying run at the plate. Wallace State’s season concludes at 55-6. The Lions were seeking the program’s third national title.

Wallace State softball put together another fantastic chapter in the program’s history in 2021, surpassing the 50-win mark and earning the 13th Alabama Community College Conference (ACCC) championship in program history. The Lions lead the nation in home runs and won 27 of 28 games entering the national championship.  

Coach A.J. Daugherty, the 2021 ACCC Coach of the Year, reached the 200-win mark at Wallace State in his fifth season, leading the Lions to nationals for a third time and the first time since 2018. Daugherty and assistant coach Cadi Oliver were named the NFCA NJCAA Division I South Coaching Staff of the Year. Sophomore second baseman Brantly Bonds was the ACCC Player of the Year.

“You always want to leave something behind better than you found it, and this sophomore class definitely did that. Two years ago, we went 50-12 and didn’t finish the deal at the conference tournament. This team picked it up and made a huge stride for our program, putting us back in a position we should be on the national level. The expectations are always high, and that’s what we want. It’s why I came here,” Daugherty said. “We thought we had a legitimate shot to win it all this year. We had the right pieces to fit the puzzle. You’ve got to come out here, get hot and have a few things go your way. Every team is solid; we just didn’t get many breaks or were just a pitch off here and there. I’m extremely proud of the foundation this team has restarted.”

The 5th-seeded Lions went 2-2 in the tournament, winning its opener against Chipola on Tuesday night behind Haylee Folds’ three-hit shutout. Wallace State split two games on Wednesday, dropping a heartbreaker in extra innings in the winner’s bracket before surviving with a 10-2 victory over Odessa late into the night.

In Thursday’s quarterfinal round, freshman Gracie Benton broke a scoreless tie in the top of the third for Wallace State, blasting a three-run homer with two outs.

Morgan White added a solo shot in the top of the fourth, extending the Lions’ cushion to 4-0.

Yavapai tallied runs over the next three innings. The Roughriders trimmed the deficit to 4-1 after the fourth and 4-3 after five.

Felicity Frame’s RBI single in the top of the sixth pushed Wallace State’s edge to 5-3. 

Yavapai’s surge in the sixth was too much to overcome. The Roughriders took advantage of a rare mistake by the Wallace State defense to begin the frame and ultimately strung together four run-scoring singles and a sacrifice fly in the inning.

Madison Adams had an RBI double for Wallace State in the seventh and White added an RBI single.

White finished 3-for-4 with a pair of singles and the homer, and Frame was 3-for-3 with an RBI, run scored and two stolen bases.

Adams and Maddie Cartron had multi-hit games for the Lions.

Folds nearly gutted out another victory on the mound, allowing only three earned runs.

Yavapai’s Kayla Rodgers and Jocelyn Ulrich – the team’s No. 2-3 hitters – combined to go 4-for-8 with five RBIs.

Wallace State sophomores on this season’s team were Folds, Bonds, Adams, Erin Chambliss, Andrea Harbin, Raven Clark, Josie Thompson, Macy Anderson, Megan Warhurst, Abigail Beech, Madison Sanders, Lauren McCoy, Lily Calvert and Olivia Ball.

White, Frame and Jaiden Farnetti were All-Tournament selections for the Lions at the conference tournament and all should return next season, in addition to lineup regulars Benton and Cartron.  

“We had a lot of impact freshmen as well. They’ll expect to take a bigger step next year,” Daugherty said.

For more information about Wallace State athletics, visit www.athletics.wallacestate.edu or the athletics Facebook page at www.wallacestate.edu/athleticsfb.