CMU Softball Wins HAAC Tournament Championship
OVERLAND PARK, KS -- A lineout to Kelsey Johnley erupted into jubilation on the field from the Central Methodist softball team as the Eagles defeated Baker 4-1 on Saturday at the Blue Valley Recreational Complex to capture the Heart of America Athletic Conference Tournament Championship. Central Methodist (40-12), ranked No. 20 in the country, earns an automatic bid to the NAIA National Championship Tournament in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
Central Methodist wins the league's regular season and tournament championships for the first time since 2008 and advances to the national playoffs for the first time since 1982.
Johnley set the stage for the top seed in the tournament from the beginning of the game. She gave the Eagles a 1-0 lead on a Kayla Yount RBI single through the left side. In the inning, Johnley recorded one stolen base, setting a new Central Methodist career record for stolen bases with 61, surpassing Destiny Miller's mark of 60.
Yount scored an unearned run on Rebecca Lipsey's at-bat in the first inning to give Central Methodist a two-run cushion.
Baker threatened to tie the game in the bottom of the first inning with bases loaded and nobody out, but the Eagle defense stiffened. Yount recorded the first out on a grounder by finding Lipsey for the force at home. A strikout by Aubrey Utley was followed by a groundout to Yount, ending the threat.
After Baker cut the deficit in half in the third inning, Central Methodist added two insurance runs in the top of the sixth. A sacrifice fly by Kerri Francis scored Kennedy Seifert to make the score 3-1. An Erika Reinagel RBI double to left center scored Rebekah Munday for the final margin.
Utley (25-5) picked up the win in the circle and in the process set a new single-season school record for wins, surpassing her mark of 24 from 2011. She fired a complete game, allowing one earned run on six hits.
Erin Greenwood (13-10) dropped the decision for Baker. She allowed two runs, one earned, on one hit in two innings.
The National Championship Tournament is hosted by the Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Sports Commission, in conjunction with the University of Mobile (Alabama), Gulf Shores, Alabama. Action opens May 17 with pool play at the Gulf Shores Sportsplex.