ST. GEORGE, Utah – In the Lady Raiders' first game ever at the NJCAA National Championship tournament, the nerves showed up. "We played like we were nervous the whole game, from the very first play of the game," Three Rivers coach Jeff Null said. "It didn't help that the team we were playing were really solid, too. You could tell the teams that had been here before and the teams where it was their first time." Three Rivers didn't score a run for the first time this season and lost to Southern Idaho 8-0 in five innings in the first round of the NJCAA National Championship tournament on Wednesday in St. George, Utah. Three Rivers (43-15) will play No. 13 Walters State (Tenn.) at 6 p.m. today in the double elimination tournament. "We have to find a way to get over (those nerves) pretty quick or we are going to be going home," Null said. Kirstien Loman had Three Rivers' only hit with an infield single in the fifth inning, and it was the first time all season the Lady Raiders had fewer than three hits in a game. Kristyn Carpenter, Allison Pingel and Sophie Wunderlich drew walks for four total baserunners. "We just weren't aggressive enough, kind of like we were behind everything a little bit.
"It was like we were defensive all day. Instead of being relaxed and making things happen, we were hoping things would happen," Null said. "I told them yesterday 100 times, we have to be aggressive. We just weren't." Kira Cunningham, who pinch ran for Pingel, was stranded at third and was the only Lady Raider to make it there. Southern Idaho (48-10) leads the nation in home runs with 128 and Null said prior to the game that if they were going to get a win, Three Rivers pitcher Summer Shockley needed to limit the Golden Eagles to solo home runs. Three Rivers could withstand that and still play its game. Shockley did just that, allowing a pair of solo home runs, but Southern Idaho drove up her pitch count from the first batter and finished with 10 hits and a walk with four strikeouts. Southern Idaho scored in every inning but the first and got three runs in both the third and fifth innings. "She threw fine. They did make her work and our defense, it seemed like they were giving them extra outs every inning, just added to it," Null said. "All around, we just didn't play like we were capable of playing." Carpenter drew a walk and was stranded at second in the top of the first inning for the Lady Raiders. The first batter Shockley faced fouled off four pitches and then the ninth pitch of the at-bat turned into a dropped fly ball for an error. Shockley needed seven pitches to get the next out and was 24 pitches to get through the fi rst inning and was at 76 pitches after three with Three Rivers trailing 4-0. Mikelle Magalogo had a solo homer in the second and in the third, Siearrah Anderson singled and leadoff batter Hannah Peterson walked to put two on and nobody out. Nicole Renner got an RBI single and Anjalee Batchelor soon followed with an RBI double. Renner added a third run on a wild pitch, bringing Magalogo to the plate. This time, Shockley got a strikeout to end the inning. With two outs in the fourth, Anderson got Southern Idaho's other home run, making it 5-0. Renner and Melanie Groenewegen singled to start the fi fth and Batchelor hit a two-run double to left center field. With two outs and Batchelor on third, Southern Idaho's home run leader Tristan Evans hit a single up the middle to end the game. Stefani Zimmerman pitched in the win for Southern Idaho. It was the second time this season where she one-hit an opponent in a complete-game win. The Lady Raiders' opponent for Thursday, Walters State, suffered a similar game against No. 4 Butler (Kan.) and lost 9-1 in five innings after getting three hits. Walters State is 15th in the nation in walks and 24th in home runs and batting average against, but doesn't rank in the top 10 in any one category. The Lady Senators top pitcher Casey Gilbert has a 2.38 ERA and averages 4.80 strikeouts per seven innings. Their No. 2 pitcher Payton Kelley is a bit more wild. She strikes out 5.52 batters per seven innings, but has walked 27 batters over 91 innings and has a 4.14 ERA. Where Walters State (41- 12) edges Three Rivers is plate discipline. The Lady Senators strikeout less and walk more. "We have a pretty good scouting report on them. Pitching, they have a pretty hard thrower, doesn't move it around a whole lot," Null said. "They are going to be very similar to us. Whoever can settle down and play their game I think will have a good shot at it."
Scott Borkgren - Daily American Republic