The #1-ranked St. Mary’s softball team swept its way to the finals of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association/Schutt Sports Leadoff Classic, only to fall 4-2 to regional rival Texas A&M- Kingsville. The Rattlers advanced to the tournament’s Gold Championship finals after beating Angelo State 2-1 in the semi-finals to give the Rams their first loss of the season.
The Rattlers were one of 20 teams from across the Southwest and Midwest competing in the annual NFCA/Shutt Sports Lead off Classic, held Feb. 28 – March 2 at Southwest Park in Irving, Texas. The defending national champions were one of six team ranked in the top 30 in the NFCA Division II preseason poll competing in the tournament: #1 St. Mary’s, #13 St. Cloud State, #16 Texas A&M Kingsville, #17 Western New Mexico, #24 Central Oklahoma and #30 Texas Woman’s. After pool play featuring five groups of four teams, the top eight teams advanced to the Gold Championship, the middle eight to the Silver Championship and the bottom four to the Bronze Championship.
St. Mary’s opened pool play with a 3-1 victory over St. Cloud State. The Rattlers, leading 2-1 after six innings added an insurance run in the top of the seventh. Kym Kling picked up her seventh win of the season after holding St. Cloud to only one run off 10 hits. Rattler reliever Amanda Bayless picked up her second save as the Huskies’ Nicole Webb gave up three runs off five hits in a complete-game loss. Shortstop Tiffany Craft sparked the Rattlers with two RBIs. The Rattlers then picked up their third win of the season over Abilene Christian with a 8-0, eight-run-rule victory. St. Mary’s scored three runs in the bottom of the first and ended the game with five runs in the bottom of the fifth. Angela Hammack picked up her first win after holding ACU to two hits. Roni Garcia and Jennifer Survant drove in two RBIs each for the Rattlers. St. Mary’s closed out pool play with a 8-0 victory over Emporia State — the Rattlers second victory in three meeting over the Hornets in the past two weeks. Amanda Bayless picked up the complete-game victory after giving up only four hits; the Rattlers scored eight runs on 10 hits as Teri Moreno drove in three RBIs on two hits.
In the Gold Championship quarterfinals All- American Kym Kling threw a no hitter and drove in the Rattlers’ lone run in the fourth as St. Mary’s downed Delta State 1-0. The junior from San Antonio allowed only three runners on base as an error in the first and an error and fielder’s choice in the third allowed three Lady Statesmen to reach first. In the semifinals the Rattlers and Rams both scored one run in the fourth, but the Rattlers scored two in the top of the sixth to pull ahead. Kym Kling picked up the win to improve to 9-1 and first-baseman Jennifer Survant doubled in the sixth to score the game-winning RBI.
In the championship game, Kingsville trailed 2-1 but scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth to secure the victory. Rattler Amanda Bayless, who gave up four runs on five hits took her second loss of the season, dropping to 6-2 on the year. Tiffani Craft scored for St. Mary’s in the first, reaching home from third base on a passed ball and Roni Garcia scored the Rattlers’ second run in the sixth off Jennifer Survant’s RBI single. The Javalinas took advantage of three hits and a Rattler throwing error to score their three runs in the sixth.
The Rattlers and Javalinas meet again at Rattler Field on Tuesday, March 4 in a doubleheader scheduled for 5 p.m. & 7 p.m.