May 17, 2018 11:00:15 AM
DUBOIS, Pa. -- The Mississippi University for Women's baseball and softball teams saw their seasons in Wednesday with fifth-place finishes at the United States Collegiate Athletic Conference Small College World Series.
Salem University baseball team rallied for three runs in the sixth inning and four in the seventh to edge The W 8-7. The New Hampshire Technical Institute (NHTI) rallied for three runs in the top of the seventh to beat The W 3-2.
"Sometimes the ball doesn't bounce your way, and that's what happened in today's game," The W baseball coach Matt Wolfenbarger said. "These guys played their hearts this entire World Series and this entire season. They have accomplished more this first year than I believe anyone ever thought they would."
The W (21-15) entered the fourth with a 5-1 lead. Capitalizing on an error by the pitcher, a double by Damain Benefield, and a single by Leon "Trey" Petite, the Owls scored five runs in the third to take their first lead.
In the fourth, The W added another run when Johndavid Birdsong's sacrifice fly scored Heath Ford to make it 7-1.
A home run by Benefield in the sixth made it 7-3 before the Bulldogs used five hits and took advantage of an error to score four runs.
Freshman pitcher Eiland Cleckler entered the game in the sixth inning and took the loss. Drew Williams went the first 5 2/3 innings. He allowed four hits and three walks. He struck out five. Former Starkville High School standout Nick Brooks walked the only two batters he faced.
Benefield was 2-for-2 for two RBIs and two runs. Ford was 1-for-4 with a double and two runs scored, while former Heritage Academy standout Brandon Jones was 0-for-1 with a run scored and three walks.
Prince Tolbert had a double and an RBI and scored a run. Will Peters, Logan Gruetter, Lukas Murphy (RBI), and Petite (RBI) also had hits.
"They did everything I asked of them both academically and athletically," Wolfenbarger said of the players in the inaugural season. "These guys deserve a ton of credit for their hard work and putting The W baseball program on the map. It was a great honor to coach this team during this inaugural season, and I couldn't have asked for a better group of guys to be the first ever Owls baseball team."
n The W's softball season came to an end after NHTI (29-6) used a two-run double by Brianna Connolly to tie the game and capitalized on an unearned run for the winning margin.
Senior pitcher Cara Hopper entered the game in the third inning in relief of starter Ciara Steward. In her fourth appearance of the week, Hopper pitched five innings and allowed three hits. She walked four and struck out six.
Kandler Flora and Carolyn "Kendall" Wilkinson had RBIs, while Anna Lloyd, Heidi Matthews, Kristen Martin, Brianna Duquette, and Makayla Taylor had hits.
Matthews scored the first run on an error in the first.
The W (21-19) extended that lead in the sixth when Martin, a junior center fielder, scored on another error.
In the seventh, walks placed runners on first and second before Connolly's double.
The Lynx secured the win thanks to another double.
"We played really well," The W coach Tatjana Matthews said. "Ciara started strong for us, and once again Cara came in and led like a senior should. She had 29 strikeouts over 18 1/3 innings. We hit the ball well but in the end, we just didn't do the little things and NHIT was able to capitalize on that. We played great softball today. We played great softball all year.
"This season was more than I ever imagined it would be when I started this journey in November of 2016. We have had some tough losses and we have had some amazing wins. The group of young women who put on this uniform all season is a group I will never forget. This team of 18 will hold a special place in my heart. They have laid a steady foundation for what will be Owls Softball in the future. Now we start the road to next season and work on things we learned in year one. I cannot wait until August when we get to start the next journey. I am and have always been proud and honored to be their coach."
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