The Seward County Lady Saints Softball Team earned their second straight trip to the NJCAA National Tournament in St. George, Utah Saturday afternoon in Wichita after defeating Garden City 3-1 in the Region VI Tournament Championship Game. To get to the title game the Lady Saints took care of Barton 6-0 on Friday before knocking Garden City to the losers bracket in the morning game on Saturday 5-1. Seward will now head to the place where they finished 7th in the country last year and bring back 6 starters from last year’s tournament team to look to improve on their finish from a season ago.
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Seward’s defense of their 2009 Region VI Tournament Championship began on Saturday as they took on the same Barton team that they had clinched the Jayhawk West Championship against just a week before. The Lady Saints jumped ahead early in this one as Alicia Reyes singled to lead off the Seward half of the 1st inning and didn’t take long to come around and score as Marisa Coats put a charge into one in her first at bat and sent it flying over the left field wall for a 2 run home run to put Seward up 2-0. Sydney Cicchetti would hold the Lady Cougar offense down and allow the Lady Saints to add onto their lead in the 5th inning after Leah Sitter walked to lead off the inning and Reyes would reach after her and both would later score on an RBI single from Coats to put Seward up 4-0 after 5. Cicchetti again retired Barton in order in the 6th inning and Seward was able to add a pair of insurance runs on RBI’s from Lauren Barker and Reyes to take a 6-0 lead going into the final inning of play. Cicchetti was now the story as the freshman hadn’t given up a hit through the first 6 innings of the game and was looking for the Lady Saints first no-hitter of the season in the circle. She got the first hitter she faced to tap back to her for the first out of the inning but gave up singles to the next two hitters she would face to lose the no hit bid. However, the right hander did keep her shutout intact by popping up the next batter and finishing the game off by inducing a ground ball to second as Seward wrapped up the 6-0 victory in game one. Cicchetti was great in the win, allowing just the 2 hits in the complete game shutout. She struck out 4 Barton hitters and didn’t allow a walk while throwing an even 100 pitches. Coats provided the offense Seward would need in the victory, going 2 for 3 with 3 RBI’s while Kelsea Blackstock also collected a pair of doubles to finish 2 for 3.

BARTON BOX SCORE

The Lady Saints would next draw the Lady ‘Busters of Garden City, a team that had played Seward relatively close throughout the 2010 regular season. Garden would score first in this winners bracket contest as Blair Stalder would triple home Alex Wall in the 3rd inning to make it 1-0 ‘Busters. Seward would answer quickly as Leah Sitter led off the Lady Saints 3rd with a single and would score three pitches later as Alicia Reyes played pepper with the wall on a double to right field to tie the game at 1-1. A misplayed ball in the Garden outfield would allow Reyes to score and after 3 innings the Lady Saints were on top 2-1. Seward would add onto their lead in the 4th inning as Lynda Musick walked with one out and was driven in on a double to center field by Sitter to make it 3-1 in favor of the gals in green. With the momentum clearly in the favor of Seward, Erin Roufosse breezed through the top of the ‘Buster lineup in the top of the 5th and got her teammates into the dugout to do some damage offensively in the bottom of the inning. After back to back singles from Shelby Casey and Marisa Coats to start the inning, Kelsea Blackstock got the big blow with a double to right to score 2 runs and put Seward County up 5-1. Roufosse would do the rest in the circle for Seward, retiring the last six hitters of the game in order to preserve the win and send Seward County to their second straight title game appearance. Sitter finished 3 for 3 with a stolen base at the bottom of the Seward order while Reyes was 2 for 4 with an RBI, a stolen base, and a run scored at the top. Blackstock had just the one hit in game but it was the big blow as it went for 2 RBI’s and broke the game open to allow Seward to move to the final game of the tournament. Roufosse continued her strong pitching efforts in the circle, going all 7 innings, allowing just 4 hits and 1 run while striking out 9 and walking just 1 batter.

GARDEN CITY BOX SCORE

As the Lady Saints rested after their semifinal win, Garden City had to battle their way back through the losers bracket and eventually came out on top of a wild 15-14 win over Butler to earn a rematch with the Lady Saints in the title game. A tired Garden City team showed up to play early though and weren’t ready to roll over for the favored Lady Saints. Both pitchers were on in the first 3 innings of this one as Brandi Lovato went 1-2-3 through the Seward order the first time through and Erin Roufosse battled out of a jam in the 1st before setting down the ‘Busters in order in the 2nd and 3rd as the game was scoreless after 3. Garden City would again score first in the 4th inning after a two out error led to a run to make it 1-0 ‘Busters after 4. Seward would knot the game up in the bottom of the 5th inning as Brittany Kent led off with a triple and was driven in by hot swinging Kelsea Blackstock with a single to make the score 1-1 with two innings to go. Roufosse would hold the score there after a 1-2-3 6th and Seward would take advantage as Marisa Coats and Brianna Baron would pick up back to back one out singles and would later score on a sacrifice fly from Kent and a two out single from Blackstock to put the Lady Saints up 3-1. From a tie game to a three outs to the national tournament situation it went for Seward as they took the field in the 7th. With a veteran on the rubber for their squad, the Lady Saints had to like their chances as they entered the last inning of play. Roufosse got Lovato to pop out to right to open the inning and quickly dispatched of Alexa Harvey on a four pitch strikeout and there were two outs and nobody on as Seward was just one out away from the big dance. After a long battle with Roufosse, Garden City catcher Megan Courtois earned a walk to bring the tying run to the plate but Shelby Bennett would hit a popup on the infield that was taken care of by Baron to seal the Lady ‘Busters fate and send Seward County to the 2010 National Tournament. Seward outhit Garden 6-2 in the win with two of the key knocks again coming off the bat of Blackstock who finished 2 for 3 with 2 RBI’s. Coats, Baron, and Kent all finished 1 for 3 with a run scored and Shelby Casey picked up the other Seward County hit and also stole a base in the clincher. Roufosse showed again why she was the top pitcher in the Jayhawk Conference this season, throwing yet another complete game for the Lady Saints, allowing just 2 hits and 1 unearned run in the victory.

GARDEN CITY CHAMPIONSHIP GAME BOX SCORE

With the tournament win, the Lady Saints advance to the NJCAA National Tournament for the second straight season which begins May 20th in St. George, Utah. “I am very proud of our girls for making it back to the National Tournament” Head Coach Andrea Gustafson said. “This is a really good group of kids and they have put in the work all season long to get to this point, now they just have to keep pushing forward and see what they can do next week” she continued. Seward is now 47-12 on the season and is just two wins short of tying the school record for wins in a season. The Lady Saints will head to the great southwest on Monday before arriving Tuesday and having their official practice on Wednesday afternoon. They will then play on Thursday and participate in opening ceremonies before playing another game Thursday afternoon/evening depending on their opening round outcome. All of the Lady Saints 2010 NJCAA National Tournament games will be available via radio broadcast at www.kscb.net . For opening round draw and any other updates on the tournament, make sure to stay tuned to www.scccsaints.com.