Jaguars fall short of nationals berth
A team's fortune can change on one swing, one play.
It happened to the University of Houston-Victoria softball team twice in two days.
Needing just one win in the final two days of the conference championship to return to the national tournament, the Jaguars fell short, a 5-4 loss Saturday to Simon Fraser ending their season instead.
Kelsey Haberl smashed a two-run home run in the fifth inning to send UHV home.
The decisive play came on a curve ball from Jaguars senior pitcher Tasha Rotramel.
"I threw it a little more down the middle than I should have," Rotramel said. "She took it exactly where she needed to. She did her job."
Co-Captain Brittany Faas said you can't predict something like a home run.
"It's just one of those things you can't defend, and then, it's like 'All right, we have to come back from this,'" she said.
The Jaguars had to battle to even be in a position for a win, led by the gritty play of their five seniors.
The Clan jumped to a three-run lead in the first inning on four hits, putting pressure on an inconsistent Jaguars' offense missing one of its key players.
Enter the seniors.
Claire McGee singled with one out in the third inning, ending a 13-inning hitless streak for UHV. Brittany Boren earned a bases-loaded walk. Rotramel reached on an error, and suddenly it was 3-2 and the Jaguars offense had life.
UHV's first and only three-year-player to date, Faas, singled to lead off the fourth. Izzy Glowney worked a walk, setting the stage for junior Allison Hinton's two-run triple to right center field.
Just like that, the seniors changed the tone of the game, and UHV had a 4-3 lead.
UHV coach Keri Lambeth said she had a simple message for her team after that tough first inning.
"I told them to just hang in there, be tough, lay it out on the line right here," she said. "Treat each at bat, each pitch, each catch like it's your last."
Rotramel, meanwhile, calmed down on the mound, and silenced the Clan for three straight innings, thanks in part to some good defense by McGee at third base. McGee fielded two hard grounders with runners on first and second in the fourth inning, getting unassisted putouts.
"Everybody was hitting that game, both sides," Rotramel said. "It was going to be who came out on top of the seventh inning."
The Clan didn't want to wait until the seventh, though. They took care of business in the bottom of the fifth.
Chrissy Caviglia singled to open the fifth, setting the stage for Haberl.
Haberl, who's one of the top hitters for the Clan, was just looking for a strike to hit.
"I wasn't looking to hit it out, just a hard shot," Haberl said.
Haberl's shot was a no-doubter, clearing the fence in center field.
One wayward pitch, a misplaced curve ball, cost the Jaguars Saturday.
On Friday, it was defensive mishap on one play that resulted in a 1-0 loss to the tournament's top-seeded team, Cal State San Marcos.
Two plays, two days, and UHV's young team (the Jaguars graduate only five players) learned a tough lesson: You have to close out the close games.
"We have a lot to be proud of," Lambeth said. "This is a great group of girls that did a phenomenal job. We've played these one-run games a lot this year, and hopefully we can bust through next season."
Rotramel, one of two co-captains for UHV, enjoyed playing with the young team.
"I just have to tell the younger kids I had great season with them," she said. "They were all awesome to play with. Every single game, we fought hard every single time. I just want to tell them to come back next year and take care of business."
Faas wanted to stress one thing for her last message as team leader.
"We played hard. I couldn't ask for anything more from my team."
NOTES: The tournament's first- and second-place teams, Cal State San Marcos and Simon Fraser, earned automatic berths into the national tournament. UHV, at No. 21, likely isn't ranked high enough to receive an at-large berth into the tournament, Lambeth said.
"Unfortunately for the seniors, this game was it," she said.
A quick look at next year, and Lambeth thinks the Jaguars will be OK.
"I think this will still get us respect in the top 25 because we've played so well," she said.
CHARACTER COUNTS: UHV's Brittany Faas was named a Champion of Character this week. Each conference team had one player honored as a champion, which honors five core values: integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership.
Faas said she was honored.
"It means a lot to me that people notice those kinds of traits in my personality and in what I do," she said. "It makes everything I do mean a little more.
CHAMPION: Cal State San Marcos
Association of Independent Institutions Conference Championship
Simon Fraser 5, UHV 4 (UHV eliminated)
UHV 002 200 0 - 4 5 1
SFU 300 020 x - 5 10 1
Tasha Rotramel and Brittany Faas. Myriam Poirier, Cara Lukawesky (5)and Nicola Collicutt. WP: Lukawesky. LP: Rotramel. Highlights: Allison Hinton 1-for-2, 3B, R, 3 RBI; Araceli Galindo 1-for-3; Claire McGee 1-for-4, R; Boren RBI; Rotramel 1-for-3; Brittany Faas 1-for-3. SFU: Kelsey Haberl 1-for-3, HR, 3 RBI; Steffani Durrant 2-for-3, R, RBI; Brittany Mayers 1-for-2, RBI.