Mount Olive's Season Ends At NCAA II Softball Southeast Regional

Mount Olive's Season Ends At NCAA II Softball Southeast Regional

A late-inning outburst was the difference for the second straight day as No. 4 seed Mount Olive fell to eighth-seeded Wingate 8-0 in an elimination game in the Southeast Regional of the 2013 NCAA Division II Softball Championship Saturday at Savannah, Ga. The Trojans, who were making their first-ever NCAA II Softball Championship appearance, finished the season at 34-15.

The loss ended Mount Olive's five-game winning streak in elimination games. The Trojans won five consecutive elimination games to capture the Conference Carolinas championship three weeks ago and earn the automatic bid to the Southeast Regional.

Despite going 0-2 at the regional, head coach Jaime Kylis-Higginbotham expressed nothing but pride for her team.

"I am very proud of this team," said Kylis-Higginbotham, who completed her 11th season at Mount Olive. "They accomplished so much this year and battled back from adversity over and over again."

Kylis-Higginbotham also praised third-year assistant coach Craig Hurba, who spent two years on the Trojan baseball team and was selected by the Texas Rangers in the 2004 Major League Baseball Draft.

"None of this happens without Hurba," said Kylis-Higginbotham. "He's done incredible work with our battery and with our hitters. He deserves so much credit for our success this year." Part of that success included a school record 36 home runs by the team this season. Beth Overman hit the record breaker in Friday's first round game against Columbus State.

Mount Olive was held to three hits in five innings Saturday, but got a runner in scoring position in three consecutive innings. Kelsey Akers, who was 2-for-2 in the game, led off the top of the second with a single and stole second. Savannah Becker, who drove in Akers with a season-saving game-tying rbi-single on a 13-pitch at bat in the conference tournament, nearly performed a bit of déjà vu, working an 11-pitch at bat before being retired.

The Trojans had their best threat in the third inning when Erin Brogan led off with a line single to center and Overman drew a walk after a Danielle Mitchell sacrifice. Mitchell's bunt went just to the first base side of the pitcher's circle and she almost beat it out for a hit, but Wingate first baseman Brittany Loudermilt threw her out from the dirt. Wingate pitcher Stacey Houser (24-13) got a force at third for the final out.

Akers led off the fourth with a single to center and went to second on Kalie Smith's sacrifice. But Houser retired the next two batters and retired the side in order in the fifth.

Wingate (33-21-1) led 3-0 going into the bottom of the fifth and capitalized on four Trojan errors to seal the run-rule win. Kayla Saliga and Kelsey Maffucci both doubled in the inning and the final three runs of the game scored on a force out at second and infield errors on the next two at bats.

Wingate took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second on back-to-back rbi-singles by Shannen Adams and Loudermilt off of Trojan starter Carly White (13-6), who had escaped a bases loaded jam in the first inning. Lauren Smith allowed a run in the third, but held Wingate scoreless in the fourth after the Bulldogs put runners on first and second with nobody out on back-to-back bunt singles. Smith started the fifth and allowed two runs before giving way to Madison Johnston with one out. Johnston retired one batter and was charged with three unearned runs.

Mount Olive had swept Wingate in a doubleheader during the regular season, winning 4-1 and 7-0.

The Trojans lose three seniors from this year's squad: catcher Rebekah McDaniel, right fielder Danielle Mitchell and designated player/pitcher Christie Wright. McDaniel and Mitchell, the only two four-year seniors on the squad, expressed excitement for the team's accomplishments during their collegiate careers and the future of the Trojan softball program.

"I think this season sets a foundation for next year and beyond," said McDaniel, who has been accepted for a graduate assistantship at Texas A&M University. We have a great group coming back next year and now they know what it takes to win a conference championship and what to expect in the NCAA Tournament."

"This season was a great experience," said Mitchell, whose 10th-inning walk-off rbi-single in Mount Olive's conference tournament semifinal win over North Greenville helped continue the Trojans' journey to the regional. "Winning a conference championship and going to the NCAA Tournament is a great way to finish a career."

Mitchell added, "I've gotten to be with a great group of girls for four years and that's been the best part of it all."