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The Student News Site of University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma

The Trend

The Student News Site of University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma

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Just Peachy!

The Drovers head to the NAIA Softball World Series for the fourth year in a row
The Drovers celebrate in a cloud of green smoke and confetti after winning the opening round and punching their ticket to Georgia.

USAO’s ticket was punched to NAIA World Series After clutching a fourth SAC tournament title in program history, USAO’s softball team (47-7, 31-5 SAC) began their national championship journey in the NAIA Opening Round. The tournament was held Monday, May 13 to Thursday, May 16.  This double-elimination tournament determined the team that advanced to the NAIA Softball World Series in Columbus, Geo. Going in as the number one seed in their bracket, USAO played host for the event at Bill Smith Ballpark for the fourth year in a row.   

Game 1:  

The Drovers had a bye to await their opponent for Tuesday, which was the number four seed Baker University (BU) Wildcats (34-15, 17-7 HAAC) from Baldwin City, Kan.  

USAO’s first game began with both teams’ defenses canceling each other out in the first inning, as junior pitcher Sophie Williams and BU pitcher Kira Baker each recorded one strikeout. Sophomore shortstop Malea McMurtrey managed to get a single but went out after she was caught stealing second.  

The Drovers began to fall behind in the second inning after the Wildcats rapidly loaded the bases and scored the first two runs of the game. Sophomore third baseman Taygan Graham fielded out one player at home before USAO trailed any further. Freshman catcher Leighanne Eaton blasted the ball and reached second, but another strikeout and flyout stopped her from putting a run on the scoreboard, leaving BU in the lead 2-0.  

USAO continued to trail in the third inning, as Wildcats third baseman Madi Ball batted in a single to increase BU’s lead. Freshman right fielder Kinzie Williams tried to give the Drovers an edge by stealing second base, but another strikeout left her stranded and a 3-0 score in the Wildcat’s favor.  

To prevent a potential scoring rally in the fourth inning, S. Williams struck another batter out and managed to hold down a loaded base of Wildcats. Junior first baseman Sierra Selfridge tapped a single for freshman pinch Jordan Ramsay to reach first. Unfortunately, the Wildcat’s quick reflexes prevented her from following up after reaching second and left USAO scoreless again.  

Feeling fatigued from the Wildcats’ claws, S. Williams stepped out of the circle for freshman pitcher Jayden Anderson before the fifth inning. She instantly went to work with two strikeouts that stopped a baserunner in scoring position. The Drovers needed an opportunity to turn the tide, which came after a controversial call among the officials ruled that K. Williams made it to second. The Drovers took advantage of this decision by loading the bases and then came the money shot. Selfridge heard her heart beating fast when she miraculously swung the bat and scored her eighth home run of the season as well as a grand slam which made her the heroine of the game The Drovers were now ahead of the Wildcats as sophomore second baseman Jadyn Goucher added another run for insurance, closing the fifth inning 5-3.  

The Drovers held on to their lead in the sixth inning, where quick fielding plays prevented the Wildcats from regaining the lead. However, USAO didn’t see any offensive action either.  

In the seventh inning, senior centerfielder Macenzie Ruth and McMurtrey quickly got BU’s batters out, and then Anderson struck out one last batter to close the game with a 5-3 victory for the USAO.  

Game 2:  

USAO went up against the team that eliminated them in the 2023 NAIA World Series, the number two seed Midland University (MU) Warriors (44-12, 18-4 GPAC) from Fremont, Neb.  

The game began similar to their first matchup, as USAO and MU’s defenses battled in the first inning. USAO pitcher Anderson and MU pitcher Aliyah Rincon both delivered two strikeouts to render the opposing team’s offense scoreless.  

The Drovers gained the upper hand in the second inning after Anderson had another strikeout and the defense’s two flyouts left a baserunner stranded. Eaton smacked the ball to left field to bring her season homerun tally to double digits and put USAO ahead 1-0.   

The third inning saw both teams’ offenses intensify. The Warriors unleashed two doubles and a home run to take the Drover’s lead away. Now with their turn to bat, K. Williams walked on an illegal pitch, then two more singles from McMurtrey and Ruth loaded the bases ready for a comeback. Selfridge came to the box and her clutch gene deployed a double run to tie the game. With Ruth on third base, Eaton used a sacrifice fly to lead her home and regain the lead 4-3 heading into the fourth.  

The USAO fielders continued fending off the BU batters and only allowed one baserunner on first. Although sophomore left fielder Jaylee Willis and Graham struck out, McMurtrey batted in a double to the center to score K. Williams an insurance run for the Drovers, pushing their lead to 5-3.  

Anderson struck another batter to begin the fifth inning. However, the Warriors began to storm the field and promptly loaded the bases. A sacrificed fly then gave MU a run, but Selfridge’s fielding play stopped the baserunners from following up. Going in the bottom of the fifth, Ramsay pinch ran for Selfridge after the MU pitcher dropped the ball but went out after a crazy collision at first base. At the end of the fifth, the Drovers held on 5-4.   

Before the sixth inning rolled around, a lightning delay paused the game for 30 minutes. The delay helped the Drovers relax from the tough battle, shown by Selfridge’s and McMurtrey’s fielding plays and Anderson’s strikeout that sent the Warriors to the dugout. However, the Drovers’ inning finished quickly as they couldn’t get a swing on the plate.  

The Drovers went all in to keep their playoff record going in the seventh inning. The fielders successfully caught each ball and quickly ended the second day. USAO won 5-4 and advanced to the final game on Thursday.  

Game 3:  

Heading into the final game undefeated, USAO was now looking at a NAIA World Series bid. Only a MU rematch stood in their path after the Warriors eliminated LSUA 5-2, following their first loss against the Drovers the previous day.  

  1. Williams was back in the circle after sitting out the previous day. After a pop-up to Eaton, S. Williams recorded her first strikeout of this game. After seeing two baserunners aiming for home, McMurtrey turned a pop-up ball into a double play, leadingthe Drovers over to the box. Ruth was caught stealing and Selfridge was left on base, leaving both teams scoreless at the end of the first.  
  2. Williams struck another batter out in the second inning, while James fielded a play that prevented MU from scoring. On the batting side, James and Eaton walked to first and second base. Shortly after, K. Williams hit the ball and saw the Wildcats record an error trying to grasp it. This error led James and Eaton to home plate, putting USAO in the driver’s seat 2-0. 

The Drovers continued to freeze the Warriors’ bats with two pop-ups and a third strikeout from S. Williams. Once the Drovers went up to bat, the offense created an explosion of runs that left the Warriors startled. The run rally began when Eaton and S. Williams doubled to right field, leading Goucher and Eaton to home. After Graham grounded out to first, USAO kept their foot on the gas pedal. A shortstop error saw S. Williams travel to home plate, and then a single from McMurtrey ensured two more runs for K. Williams and James. The offensive action confidently kept the Drover’s tournament chances alive with the score now 7-0.  

USAO remained in control in the fourth, as J. Willis and S. Williams shut the Warriors down again after one batter reached first. As Ramsay traveled across the bases to third, S. Williams sacrificed her hit to add an insurance run, making the score 8-0 after four innings of action.  

The fifth inning was all the Drovers needed to punch their ticket to Georgia, as each of the Warrior batters surrendered their season to the fielding of J. Willis and Goucher. With an 8-0 mercy rule win, USAO successfully avenged their 2023 playoff elimination and became an Opening Round champion once again.  

The pitching staff showed they were among the nation’s cream of the crop, combining fifteen strikeouts and six batters walked. Anderson struck out the most batters with eight while allowing eight hits and walking one batter. S. Williams struck out seven batters, gave up eight hits, and walked five batters. S. Williams threw the highest percentage of strikes with 68.1%, followed by Anderson with 65.6%. Anderson spent the most time in the rubber with 10.0 innings, while S. Williams pitched 9.0 innings.  

The batting squad was led by McMurtrey and Selfridge with six hits each, three of which led to runs. Across all three games, the Drovers earned 18 total runs. K. Williams led the team in runs with four, while Eaton followed her with three runs.  

The Drovers will now travel down lower south to Columbus, Geo. for the NAIA World Series, which will begin Thursday, May 23 through Wednesday, May 29. Their first opponent will be Central Methodist University (CMU), and the first pitch is scheduled for May 23 at 6 p.m. 


Jordan Prewitt is a fifth-year English major at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma.

Ray Thomas-Lapham
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About the Contributor
Jordan Prewitt, Contributing Writer
Jordan is a fifth-year English major from Stillwater. He graduated from the Information Technology program at Meridian Technology Center in 2019.   Experience with The Trend: Contributing Writer: Oct. 2023 - present