DODGE CITY, Kan. – Midland University softball split a pair of games on Tuesday in the NAIA Softball Opening Round. The Warriors opened their day with a narrow extra-innings loss to top-seeded University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, 7-4 in nine innings. They then defeated second-seeded University of Jamestown for the second time of the tournament, 3-2, to move on to a rematch with the Drovers on Wednesday.
In a matchup of first round winners, Midland and USAO were both looking to pick up their second win and advance on to the championship game on Wednesday. The Warriors were in control early as their first three batters reached base setting up a bases loaded situation with no outs. After a fielder’s choice that threw out the runner at home, Bobbi Singleton earned an RBI walk that brought in Andrea Cespedes to give Midland the early lead.
The Warriors would extend it in the fifth inning with as Cespedes found her way around the bases again as Sierra Athow drove her in with an RBI single to left field.
Then in the next half inning USAO finally broke through against Jaylee Hinrichs as they scored a pair of runs to tie the game on a hard hit ball to the left-center gap. They nearly took the lead on the play but a great throw by Jamie Phares and relay by Athow gunned down the runner at the plate as catcher Katlin Anders applied the tag for the third out.
That’s where things stood until the ninth inning. USAO took the lead with a three-run home run over the center field wall and then tacked on two more to make it 7-2 in their favor.
Midland would respond with a pair of runs as they worked the bases loaded with two outs. They would eventually go down on a pop out on the infield as the Drovers took the game 7-4.
Jaylee Hinrichs threw an astonishing 189 pitches in the game with six strikeouts, seven walks and ten hits. Her counterpart, Emily Cerny of USAO, threw 151 pitches with nine strikeouts, six walks and six hits.
Game two of the day was a rematch from day one as Midland took on future conference foe, Jamestown.
The Warriors didn’t wait until the final inning like their first meeting, scoring three runs in the second inning. After working the bases loaded, Nicole O’Haver lined hard hit ball down the left field line that rolled to the corner. All three Warriors on the bases came around and O’Haver nearly slid into third with a triple but was called out on a bang-bang play.
Madison Plummer earned the start in the circle for the Warriors and with help of her defense, kept the No. 11-ranked team scoreless until sixth inning. The Jimmies plated two runs that inning to narrow the gap. Plummer was relieved in that inning by Hinrichs who came on to pick up the save.
“Today was a great day of softball. I am very proud of the way the girls competed today,” commented head coach Mike Heard. “That first game could have went either way. Both teams played really well.”
“Then to have the toughness to come back and win the second game only a few hours later was really nice to see. That’s not easy to do and it shows what this team has grown in to.”
Midland (36-16) will now look to take back-to-back games from Science & Arts (52-5) on Wednesday. The first game is slated for 11:00 a.m. at Legends Park in Dodge City, Kansas with another game, if necessary, to follow after. The winner of the Dodge City Bracket will advance the NAIA Softball World Series next week in Clermont, Florida.