Softball comes home with national title

Freshman pitcher Shelby VandeBergh celebrates her team’s May 24 return to campus with congratulatory hugs. The Wildcats secured the national title that morning when they defeated the Christopher Newport University Captains 6-2.

 

Community members hold up a homemade poster while waiting in anticipation for the Linfield softball team’s arrival May 24. People from McMinnville and Linfield cheered the Wildcats as they returned to Linfield from Salem, Va. The ’Cats rolled up to the celebration with a police escort surrounding their coach bus.

Linfield students, faculty, fans and a motorcade escort welcomed the National Champion softball team back to campus after back-to-back wins over the Christopher Newport University Captains in Salem, Va., on May 24.

After losing 4-0 to the University of Texas at Tyler Patriots on May 21, the ’Cats had to battle their way through the elimination bracket, winning three loser-out games to face Christopher Newport in two championship games.

“We played nervous against Texas-Tyler,” head coach Jackson Vaughan said, “but we still felt like we were the best team there. It would be tough, but there was still a chance.”

The ’Cats would get another chance at Texas-Tyler, but not before taking down Eastern Connecticut State University 9-1 on May 22 and the State University of New York College at Cortland 12-1 on May 23.

In the second of three games the ’Cats played May 23, they avenged their loss to Texas-Tyler, beating the Patriots 7-1.

The third game was the first of the two games that decided the national champion. Senior pitcher Claire Velaski and junior pitcher Lauren Harvey each gave up just two hits in the 6-0 shutout of Christopher Newport. Sophomore third baseman Karleigh Prestianni blasted a home run and contributed three RBI to boost the offense.

The ’Cats faced off one last time against Christopher Newport on May 24.

The ’Cats got on the board first when they scored one run in the opening frame, but after five and a half innings of play the score was tied at two, and the game was delayed because of lightning.

When play resumed, Prestianni opened what would be a four-run inning for the ’Cats with a solo home run. Harvey held the Captains scoreless in the bottom of the seventh inning to secure the 6-2 win and national title.

“[The feeling] is unreal; there is nothing like it. After that last out it was just a rush of adrenaline and euphoria,” junior outfielder Jaydee
Baxter said.

“This was our goal from the very first time we met this year, so to go and be ranked number one and have that pressure all year and then to win it is amazing,” Vaughan said.

The ’Cats finished the season with a 51-3 record and six players were named to the all-tournament team including Velaski, Harvey, Prestianni, Baxter, senior shortstop Emily Keagbine, junior catcher Emilee Lepp and junior first baseman
Staci Doucette.

“I guess it hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Doucette said. “I think we’re all still a little shocked but it’s definitely exciting and it was a cool experience.”

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Rae Smith/for the review

Rae Smith can be reached at linfieldreviewsports@gmail.com.

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