COUGARS REACH REGION IX FINALS, BALL NAMED PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Posted 8 months ago

By John Axtell

Jessica Ball

Jessica Ball

LAMAR, Colo. – Shelby McGraw had a 3-run home run Friday afternoon as Western Nebraska Community College moved into the Region IX Softball  Championship series with a 9-1 win against McCook CC in Lamar, Colo.

The best 2-0f-3 championship series matches up the top 2 teams from the regular season; the Cougars, who were 2nd, and Otero Junior College, who finished 1st. They’ll play 2 games on Saturday with the third game, if needed, on Sunday…all at Lamar. Otero beat Lamar Thursday and Friday to win its pool

Before the McCook game, freshman shortstop Jessica Ball, who leads the nation in home runs with 26, was named the Region IX Player of the Year.

Also earning All-Region 1st-Team honors were infielder Angel Council, catcher Kelsey Bernhardt, outfielder Courtney Cloud as an outfielder, and Shelby McGraw…picked as the utility player.

Alysa Linford got the scoring started for the Cougars Friday with a solo home run in the 2nd, but the game stayed 1-0 until the 4th.  Ball doubled, Lindsay Guymon was hit by a pitch, and RaVae Herrera and Hannah Gonzales each hit 2-out singles to score Ball and Guymon.

McCook scratched across a run in the 5th to make it 3-1, but the Cougars plated 6 runs in the bottom of the inning to end the game on the 8-run rule.

Council with a double, Ball walked, and McGraw followed with a 3-run home run over the centerfield fence to make it 6-1. The final 3 runs came as 5 Cougars singled…Linford, Guymon, Gonzales, Cloud, Bernhardt…the last 3 all driving in one run apiece with pinch-runner Macy Child scoring the game-ending run.

WNCC coach Maria Winn-Ratliff said afterward the Cougars played better than in the 7-6 come-from-behind win against McCook on Thursday.  “Shelby came out in the first inning and contained them a lot and I think that set the tone for us,” she said.

“I felt confident after the first inning even though we didn’t score. Then Alysa (Linford) hits that solo home run and then they make a couple of defensive miscues and we score a couple runs. They then score a run and we had to settle them down a little bit because they are excited.”

McGraw was masterful in the circle, allowing just six hits and one run in five innings of work. The sophomore righthander walked two and struck out four.

Offensively, the Cougars were just as sharp. The Cougars finished the game with 13 hits, including 5 for extra bases. Linford, Guymon, and Bernhardt each finished with two hits each, McGraw drove in 3, and Linford, Guymon, and Ball each scored twice.

Friday’s win was  a milestone, marking the first time the Cougars have posted back-to-back 50-win seasons. “They didn’t even know until I told them that they are a team of firsts and it is great for them to be the first team in school history to have back-to-back 50 win seasons,” said Winn-Ratliff.

“I am just excited for them because winning today is important as it sets up the championship series. We still have some work to do if we want to bring home a title.”

The championship series can be watched online at njcaatv.com/lamarcc. The first game will begin at 2 p.m.

 

McCook                                000 01 – 1 6 0

WNCC (50-13)                    010 26 – 9 13 0

WP – Shelby McGraw; 2B – Jessica Ball, Angel Council; HR – Alysa Linford, McGraw.