Jaguars punch out British Columbia
After the top of the first inning, the entire UHV softball team was gathered around a board in the dugout.
"Punch it, punch it, punch it," was the chant every Jaguar was yelling, followed by a popping sound.
"We have goals set before the game and its various things, like score first, get three strikeouts in a row, a double, anything really," UHV coach Keri Lambeth said about the punch out board. "It's a board we make, and when a goal is accomplished, we punch it out. It's a physical reminder of our goals throughout the game."
The Jaguars punched out a lot of their goals Wednesday afternoon when they defeated British Columbia 7-2 to start their run at the Association of Independent Institutions championship tournament.
"As silly as it sounds, it's our motivator," junior Ashley Shannon said. "We have a set number of goals, and if we reach half or more than half of them, we'll come out on top almost every single time."
One of the goals set Wednesday was to score first, and UHV did just that in the top of the first inning, setting the tone for rest of the game.
Shannon started off with a double that landed in the left field corner, and, two batters later, senior Jena West drove her in with her own double to left field.
"Me being the lead off hitter, I have to take the opportunity to attack that first pitch I can," Shannon said. "Basically, that's exactly what we just did."
UHV (27-20) kept getting hits off of the Thunderbirds (23-20) for most of the game with all but two Jaguars recording a hit. In all, UHV had 10 hits, four of which were doubles.
The Jaguars did a majority of their damage in the third inning as the first six batters crossed home plate.
Junior Ashley Winegeart's two-run double that bounced off the center field wall sent British Columbia's Alana Westerhof to the dugout and Nicole Day entered the game in an effort to stop the bleeding.
It wouldn't work though as junior Alex Holland sent Day's first pitch sailing into left center field for a pair of runs. Freshman Krissa Powell drove Holland in the next at bat, and Powell would later score on a passed ball for the only unearned run by UHV.
"It can be very intimidating whenever we start the game off with a big hit like (Shannon's double)," Lambeth said. "I think that gave us the momentum, and we just kept rolling with it."
Holland and Winegeart each went 2 for 3 with two RBI doubles to lead UHV at the plate. Dawn Villegas picked up the win inside the circle for the Jaguars, allowing just two runs on four hits and three walks with six strikeouts.
"It's my senior year, and I want to do good for these girls and the coaching staff," the senior right-hander said. "They have been behind me the whole three years I've been here. So, I just wanted to repay them by having a good game and winning it."
The Jaguars find themselves just one win away from going to their second straight NAIA national championship tournament. They will face LSU-Alexandria Thursday at 1:30 p.m. The winner will play for the conference championship on Friday.
LSU-Alexandria 4, Cal State San Marcos 2
The first big upset of the AII championship tournament came Thursday evening when the No. 1 seed Cal State San Marcos fell to No. 5 seed LSU-Alexandria 4-2.
The Generals move on to face No. 2 seed UHV Thursday at 1:30 p.m. with the winner moving on to the championship game.
Despite three errors, LSU-Alexandria was able to take a 2-1 lead in the second and added runs in the fourth and sixth innings. Cal State San Marcos scored just once in each of the second and third innings.
LSU-Alexandria 4, Ashford 2
LSU-Alexandria kicked off the AII tournament with a two-run victory over Ashford Wednesday morning.
Both sides found plenty of hits and base runners, but three errors and 12 runners left on base doomed Ashford. LSU-Alexandria scored three in the third and once in the fourth to take the lead. Ashford plated two runs in the fifth to make things interesting but was unable to muster any more runs.