CANYON, Texas – The St. Mary’s softball team will return for San Antonio in the coming hours, understandably saddened to have seen their magical season come to an end Saturday.
But know this about these Lady Rattlers: They return defeated, but with their heads still held very, very high.
St. Mary’s was eliminated from the NCAA Division II South Central #2 Regional Tournament following a pair of losses Saturday, including a 5-2 defeat to top-seeded West Texas A&M in an elimination game at Lady Buff Yard.
That game following an epic, 13-inning affair in which the Lady Rattlers (36-21) were outlasted 2-1 by Nebraska-Omaha.
Hoping to build on the momentum of Friday’s upset of West Texas A&M, fourth-seeded St. Mary’s needed a single win Saturday to advance to Sunday’s regional championship game. But it wasn’t meant to be.
Nebraska-Omaha, ranked 15th in the nation, scored the winning run on an RBI single from A. Lutmer in the top of the 13th inning.
St. Mary’s appeared to receive a good omen when third baseman Chelsea Wenske (Sr., Victoria, Texas) walked to lead off the bottom of the frame, but three straight outs followed to end the game.
Freshman ace Emily Brittain, a native of Corpus Christi, Texas, lasted all 13 innings for St. Mary’s. She struck out four, walked four and scattered nine hits in a fine performance.
Undoubtedly exhausted by the time they faced West Texas A&M (47-16) – ranked 12th in the nation – the Lady Rattlers still fought as they always do, engaging in a scoreless battle through the first three innings.
But the Lady Buffs broke free with three runs in the fourth before adding two more in the fifth to take a 5-0 lead. Though St. Mary’s responded with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth, it wasn’t enough.
The Rattlers relied on pitchers Crystal Keller (So., LaCoste, Texas), Heather Haas (So., Shiner, Texas) and Brittain to get through the game, but Keller ultimately was tagged with the loss a day after picking up an amazing victory over those same Buffs.
First baseman Jared Gonzalez’s two-RBI double to right-center to drive in both of the Rattlers’ runs in the game. Gonzalez (So., San Antonio) finished 2 for 4 in the game, while Wenske and Haas accounted for the Rattlers’ remaining two hits.
St. Mary’s finished the season as the Heartland Conference regular-season champions in a year in which iconic coach Donna Fields won her 600th career game. They finished the runner-up to Texas A&M International in the conference tournament.