St. George • The Salt Lake Community College softball team faced a monstrous task Saturday as the Bruins headed into the final rounds of the NJCAA softball national championships at the Canyons Softball Complex. Having suffered its first loss of the tournament the night before, SLCC needed to win three consecutive games in order to claim the school's first NJCAA crown and avoid its third loss in as many years in a championship game.
The Bruins were solid for two games, beating Pima Community College (Ariz.) 8-5 in a hard-fought semifinal and easily handling Wallace State (Ala.) 8-0 in the first elimination game.
But three games in the desert sun proved to be to much as Wallace State came alive with five runs in the seventh inning of the championship contest and beat SLCC 7-3 to take the title.
"They brought every competitive spirit and fire that we could ask. They're an amazing group," said SLCC coach Mary Kay Amicone. "I just think we ran out of gas."
The Bruins would have given anything for just one more gallon, but a day that started with a 12-inning marathon against Pima came crashing down at the worst of times.
MaCauley Flint pitched all 12 innings in a marathon against Pima in the day's first game and looked good, allowing five runs on seven hits.
Her presence in the circle during the final tilt kept WSCC to two runs on five hits through the sixth inning.
But with 17 innings under her belt, the Lions finally found a way to crack her.
With the game knotted 2-2, WSCC unleashed a barrage of hits in the final inning that took the wind out of the Bruins' sails and put the game out of reach for good.
The explosion left SLCC catcher Susan Dukes at a loss for words.
"I have no idea [what happened]," Duke said. "Because we didn't change anything or do anything different."
Defensively the Bruins didn't look any different, but WSCC just seemed to hit its stride at the right time.
An RBI double from Victoria Frith with one out put the Lions up 3-2 and a single from Katie Gentle extended the lead to 5-2.
An intentional walk to Paige Rowland brought Kori Benson to bat and led to another pair of runs as Benson singled to drive in Gentle and Shaquille Morris.
SLCC picked up another run with one out in the bottom of the seventh on a solo shot by Maddy Woodard that brought the score to 7-3 and temporarily brought some life to the Bruins' dugout.
But the Lions turned a textbook 4-3 double play two batters later to kill the rally and end the game.