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The Trend

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

The Trend

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Why Not Us?

The Drovers finish third at the NAIA Softball World Series in Georgia
Jadyn Goucher lets her emotion show in a cloud of dirt after diving home and beating out the throw.

USAO’s softball team (49-9, 31-5 SAC) concluded their spectacular season after finishing third at the NAIA Softball World Series, held in Colombus, Geo. from Thursday, May 23 to Wednesday May 29. The Drovers were the number six seed among the ten finalists racing for the red banner. The team’s slogan throughout the playoffs was “Why Not Us?” which reflects the program’s recent history at the NAIA World Series. USAO won the title back in 2018 and made later appearances in 2019, 2022, and 2023.


Game 1:

For their first game on Thursday, USAO’s opponent was the number three seed Central Methodist University (CMU) Eagles (52-7, 24-0 HAAC) from Fayette, Mis.

The first game in Georgia saw USAO encounter a familiar trend of scoreless first innings that happened in the Opening Round. Both teams had two of their batters struck out between USAO junior pitcher Sophie Williams and CMU pitcher Jordyn Ball. S. Williams put effort in the circle to stop the Eagles from landing home.

The Eagles put USAO in a corner when CMU first baseman Elizabeth Palumbo avenged her strikeout by fielding S. Williams out, with only sophomore right fielder Kamryn James walking first. Just when USAO’s fielders eliminated two batters, the Eagles walked with a follow-up double to score the first run and leave USAO scoreless after two innings of action.

USAO only wanted to keep their season going, so the offense made a statement with the next couple of plays. Sophomore shortstop Malea McMurtrey sacrificed a bunt, then an error by the centerfielder scored freshman designated player Kinzie Williams to tie CMU. Directly following was another single from junior first baseman Selfridge where senior centerfielder Macenzie Ruth slid home and put the Drovers in the lead. Sophomore second baseman Jadyn Goucher put a cherry on top of the scoreboard by swinging to the left field her eleventh home run of the season, giving her and Selfridge a trip home. USAO’s fielders defended their 4-1 lead with three quick fielding plays and sent the Eagles back to the dugout.

Back on top to start the fourth inning, a passed ball and a throwing error allowed Ruth and McMurtrey to dash home to increase the Drovers lead. Three straight pop-ups left the Eagle batters stuck on the plate again and guaranteed USAO to lead CMU 6-1.

The Drovers continued to dominate the Eagles in the fifth inning thanks to freshman pinch runner Taylor Chronic adding insurance on the board. CMU began to show action in the box again after two batters walked and singled, but they were stopped by the Drovers’ skilled fielders. S. Williams’s third K left the baserunners hanging another inning scoreless.

Neither team scored in the sixth inning, though a CMU pinch runner singled but went out for leaving first base early.

Both teams gave all they had to win in the seventh, but the Drovers clearly had the edge. After S. Williams singled up the middle, a second flyout turned her clutch mode on and stole second. Sophomore third baseman Taygan Graham then smacked another single to score for the Drovers. Ruth’s glove ended the game as she caught two fly balls. USAO won 8-3, and earned a day to relax before the next winner’s bracket game on Saturday.

“Our whole thing postseason is why not us? They’re very young and fearless, and honestly this moment for them, they don’t know what to fear, so that’s the exciting part about this team. They just get out there and play for each other. They’re playing together, they’re on fire, and I couldn’t be more proud to be their coach,” Jadyn Wallis, USAO softball head coach, said in a postgame interview.


Game 2:

Up next, USAO faced the number seven seed Jessup University (JU) Warriors (44-12, 15-5 GSAC) from Rocklin, Cal.

The game initially didn’t go in the Drovers’ favor. After McMurtrey caught a baserunner stealing, JU first baseman Sarah Giles homered to the left field which gave the Warriors an early lead. The Drovers tried to get even on the plate, but the Warriors’ defense frantically reacted to each swing with a ground out after one inning of action.

S. Williams refused to let the Drovers down and struck out her first two batters. Unfortunately, JU’s agile fielders intercepted all but one hit to keep the Drovers off the board.

The situation for the Drovers became worrisome when JU’s offense further put USAO on the ropes. S. Williams started off by striking out another batter, but then a flyout kicked in the Warriors’ clutch gene. Two batters walked and loaded the bases, then a wild pitch from S. Williams and a double allowed three Warriors to increase their lead. USAO still didn’t respond to the powerful bats, as the Drovers were sent back the dugout scoreless after three innings.

Despite the unfavorable 4-0 scoreboard, the Drovers were not going down without a fight. Each of the Warrior’s batters froze actionless to quick fielding plays, then the bats were handed back to the Drovers. Freshman catcher Leighanne Eaton and S. Williams singled and Eaton circled the bases to put USAO on the board for the first time that game.

The fifth inning was the point where the Drovers made a comeback out of a sports movie. S. Williams persisted in the circle as she froze two more batters, then the batting squad had a surprise for the Warriors. The Drovers put on a show with three huge hits. One sent McMurtrey around, then Ruth took advantage of a throwing error. With one out left, Eaton stepped up and smacked a single to tie the game 4-4. A fourth single from S. Williams and a second fielding error astonishingly eclipsed the board to put USAO ahead 5-4.

Now with a lead to protect, the contest became intensely hot on defense. After S. Williams recorded another strikeout, two JU batters used a passed ball and walk. Just when the Drovers had the bases loaded with K. Williams about to reach home, the Warriors used a frenetic double play to close out the sixth inning.

USAO wasn’t going to let JU off the hook in the seventh inning. After a ground out and line out, the Warriors relentlessly stormed the bases with singles for one last scoring attempt. S. Williams held her breath and threw the game-ending strike to keep USAO in the running after a nail-biter 5-4 victory.


Game 3:

One game away from the national championship, USAO had a high-stakes rematch from earlier this season against the number one seed Our Lady of Lake University (OLLU) Saints (57-3, 24-0 RRAC) from San Antonio, Tex.

The game started with both unbeaten teams dueling each other on defense. Both S. Williams and OLLU pitcher Cassandra Valdez recorded one strike against their opponent. The Drovers saw action when Ruth stole second, but the OLLU third baseman caught her before advancing further.

The Drovers had their momentum going when James took advantage of a left fielder missing the ball, which then S. Williams took the lead for USAO. K. Williams then scored James, the second run. Just after S. Williams was back in circle with another K, the Saints powerfully responded with OLLU catcher Grace Ross homering to the left. S. Williams swatted the next two batters to close out the second inning with USAO leading 2-1.

Both teams went back to playing back-and-forth defense while USAO held on their hard-fought lead. The Drovers were stuck on the plate as Valdez struck out Ruth and Selfridge. S. Williams retaliated with her fifth K in three innings.

The defensive tug-of-war continued as USAO looked to pull an upset, though S. Williams had a taste of her own medicine by being struck out. The Saints relied on a walk to leave the box, but still nothing to follow up.

The bats went back to business for the fifth inning, where a single up the middle from McMurtrey and a sacrifice bunt from Ruth scored for the Drovers on a wild pitch. However, the Saints fought back with a double down the right field, then a single to the left to tie the game 3-3.

The consistent accuracy by the fielders insured an endless stalemate between the Drovers and the Saints for the next two innings. Neither team tapped the ball, with the only base run being a walk from OLLU. The even score meant an eighth inning determined the first championship finalist.

The Drovers held out hope to break the tie, but the Saints overwhelmed all three swings for the past three innings. USAO then back to defense with a flyout and a foul from the Saints. When S. Williams was about the deliver the ninth-inning strike, OLLU catcher Alyssa Flores homered to give the Saints a run-deciding 4-3 victory. The defeat ended USAO’s 30-game winning streak and sent them to the elimination semi-finals on Wednesday.


Game 4:

Now one of three remaining teams in contention for the red banner, USAO had a rematch with JU.

The semi-final began with S. Williams striking out three Warriors in the lineup. However, the Warriors defense was also ruthless on the Drovers by denying Ruth and Goucher follow-up base runs, keeping the game scoreless.

The second inning went by lightning fast without a clear favorite in sight. S. Williams cleaned the batting slate again, then Drovers grounded out to the Warriors three times in a row.

In between the strategic fielding plays that both teams took to avoid elimination, they were still evenly matched as the bats found their groove in third inning. JU shortstop Maddy Ybarra scored the first run and took the lead for the Warriors. With the Drovers back on deck, Ruth clanged a single up the middle to score K. Williams, now tying the Warriors 1-1 after three innings of action.

The pressure on the Drovers to overcome the Warrior’s sleeper performance escalated in the next two innings. JU pinch runner Malia Ishii took advantage of a throwing error by Eaton to put up another run and overtake the Drovers. Pinch hitter Jordan Ramsay and Graham tried a comeback but were denied by a ground out.

The Warriors kicked off the fifth inning with JU first baseman Giles homering to left field, but S. Williams ended their batting turn with her seventh strikeout of the day. The Drovers were again hindered by JU’s resistant fielders, now trailing the Warriors 3-1 after five innings.

Although USAO’s championship bid was shrinking with two innings left, S. Williams continued to commandeer the rubber and froze two more bats in the Warriors lineup. The Drovers gave it their all in the bottom of seventh, which started with McMurtrey using an umpire call to lessen the scoreboard margin. Ruth was one base away from tying the Warriors and had her feet ready in scoring position, but JU pitcher Katie Blankenheim delivered the final strikeout to end USAO’s deep postseason run 3-2 and advance to the final versus OLLU.

S. Williams carried the weight on her shoulders in Georgia to the final pitch. Her totals across all four games were 25 strikeouts while she allowed 22 hits and 17 walks. Her strike percentage was 60.1% while pitching 28.2 innings on the rubber.

The batting squad put up substantial numbers to close the season. Ruth led with nine hits, three of which led to runs. Across the final four games, the Drovers earned 18 total runs. McMurtrey led the team in runs with four, while Ruth followed her with three runs.

The Drover team featured two graduates as pitcher Terra Funk and Ruth played their final innings in green and gold.

The Drovers will begin their 2025 season in February of next year.


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 Contributors
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
Laura Barrios Bardi
Laura Barrios Bardi, Contributing Photographer
Laura is a fourth-year art major from El Paso, TX. Laura currently works for USAO's Sports Information Department as a photographer. She is also a member of USAO's track and field team. Her hobbies include stargazing, spending time with friends, and working towards elevating her photography skills.   Experience with The Trend: Contributing Photographer: Nov. 2022 - present