Ensuring soon to be retired head coach Ed Hargrove will get another chance to compete for the elusive national title, the Cowley College softball team came back from a loss in the second game of the Region VI Tournament played in Topeka to win three games on Sunday and advance to play at the NJCAA Division II National Tournament May 14-17 in Clinton, MS.
Cowley opened the Region Tournament on Saturday with a 2-0 win over Labette before losing to Coffeyville by a score of 2-1. With top-seeded Johnson County out of the tournament after two games, the Lady Tigers came back on Sunday to defeat Labette 6-0 and then won back-to-back games against Coffeyville (4-2 and 12-1) to capture the region title.
Cowley is now 41-12 on the season. The Lady Tigers have now won 40 or more games in 15 of the past 16 seasons.
This marks the third straight year the team has advanced to the national tournament. Cowley placed fourth in 2012 and third at last year's tournament.
Even though Cowley placed an uncharacteristic fifth in the conference, Hargrove knew his team had the capability to win the region tournament.
"We have had our ups and downs this season, but we knew our goals were still ahead of us," Hargrove said. "It was as much of a total team effort as we have had all year."
After a 2-0 win over Labette on Saturday and another 6-0 win over the Cardinals on Sunday, Cowley needed to defeat Coffeyville twice. The Lady Tigers jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first game against the Lady Red Ravens before Coffeyville scored two runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to cut Cowley's lead to 3-2.
Lady Tiger freshman Morgan Swisher tripled leading off the top of the fifth inning and came around to score to increase Cowley's lead to 4-2.
Coffeyville made things interesting in the top of the seventh inning as they had two runners on base before Lady Tiger reliever Taya Haney got Leeza Enfield to fly out to end the game. Haney pitched four scoreless innings in relief of Cowley starter Brooke Benge.
"By beating Coffeyville that first game on Sunday it put all the pressure on them," Hargrove said.
In the championship game, Coffeyville grabbed a 1-0 lead after one inning of play, but that would be the Lady Red Ravens only run of the game as Jessica Seay went the distance on the mound to pick up her third win of the weekend.
"At the end of the third inning she told me I'm finishing this thing," Hargrove said.
Seay also went the distance in the shutout victories over Labette and struck out 24 batters with only one walk in 21 innings pitched. Seay improved her record to 20-8 and lowered her ERA to 1.61.
Cowley pulled away in the championship game by scoring three runs in the third inning and four more in the fourth thanks to Jordan Haya's grand slam home run. Haya leads the team with 12 home runs and 68 RBIs.
Sophomore rightfielder Rondeci Oliver went 7-for-13, while freshman leftfielder Morgan Swisher went 7-for-16 on the weekend.
Winners of 19 of their past 21 games, the Lady Tigers are playing their best softball heading into the national tournament.
"I wanted to end my career in Mississippi rather than Topeka," Hargrove said. "The sophomores also wanted to get back to nationals to see if they can do better than last year's third place finish."
Championship games score by innings:
Game one R H E Cowley 0 0 1 2 1 0 0 - 4 8 1 Coffeyville 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 - 2 7 2
Game two R H E Cowley 0 2 3 4 0 3 0 - 12 15 1 Coffeyville 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 - 1 8 2