ST. GEORGE, Utah. — The Lady Raiders' first trip to nationals ended with the tying run at the plate. After letting nerves get the best of them in an opening round, 8-0 loss in five innings to Southern Idaho on Wednesday, Three Rivers rebounded Friday with a 12-4 win in six innings over Walters State (Tenn.). After the win, the Lady Raiders immediately played Tyler (Texas) and lost 8-6, ending their trip to the NJCAA Softball National Championship. "From where we were two years ago to being able to come out here to Utah, trying to put it all in perspective, it was a trip of a lifetime for them and they made the most out of it. I am super proud of them for that," Null said. Allison Pingel hit two home runs in the tournament and also finished second in the home run derby that took place Tuesday. She finished with 21 home runs in her freshman season, obliterating the single-season record of 15, and is one away from tying the career record. Pingel also set Three Rivers single-season records for RBIs (84) and slugging percentage (864). Pingel had three hits, two runs and six RBIs in the tournament. Kristyn Carpenter also had a solid tournament offensively after going 4 for 7 with two doubles, a home run, four runs scored and four RBIs. With four runs in the tournament she finished with 71 for the season, breaking Amber Johnson's 2015 single-season record of 68. She also finished second in the single-season record book with 20 doubles and had 64 RBIs, which would have broken the record had it not been for Pingel. Sophomore Randi Scruggs, who did not play in the final six games of the season after injuring her knee during the Region XVI tournament, set the Three Rivers career record for runs scored (121), breaking Mindy Myers' 19 year-old record of 105. The speedy leadoff hitter also finished second with 99 career stolen bases. Gracie King had four hits, three runs and two RBIs in the tournament. Three Rivers (44-16) took the early lead against Tyler with two runs in the bottom of the first inning. Lindsey Elfrink got a leadoff single and Gracie King doubled. The Raiders clean-up hitter, Pingel, did just that with a two-run double.
"Just bam, bam, bam. I think that kind of loosened us up," Null said. "Everyone was just being aggressive and playing like we were capable of playing. That was the biggest difference over day one." Pingel added a two-run home run in the third, scoring Carpenter, for Pingel's 21st home run of the season. However, the next seven Lady Raiders were retired as Tyler made a comeback. The Lady Apaches (55-13) scored three runs in the fourth inning to tie the game after three straight singles to start it, followed by a pair of walks. After a strikeout, Three Rivers escaped further damage when Carpenter turned an unassisted double play. In the sixth, The top four of the Tyler lineup all reached base with one out. Three singles, a walk, plus a Three Rivers throwing error allowed three runs to score and put Tyler ahead 7-4. In the bottom of the sixth, Ally Law cut the lead to a run with a two-run home run, scoring Sydney Tollison who was pinch-running for Pingel. Tyler added an insurance run in the top of the seventh. Carpenter had a two-out single in the bottom of the seventh to bring the tying run to the plate, but a groundout ended Three Rivers' season. "Totally different team yesterday. We came out and competed until the end," Null said. "I'm not upset about one single thing yesterday." Summer Shockley didn't pitch Thursday after spraining her ankle getting a loose softball in the dugout. Null said he planned to pitch her against Tyler. If Three Rivers had made it through Friday, it would have been two wins away from a national championship. Carleigh Burnett started against Tyler and allowed five hits and three walks with one run and two strikeouts over three innings. Kari Hatridge started the fourth but didn't get an out and allowed three hits, a walk and three runs before Null brought in Macy Rogers. Rogers finished the game and allowed five hits and two walks with two strikeouts. Three of the four runs against her were earned. Earlier in the day, Three Rivers trailed Walters State 3-2 after two innings, and then scored at least two runs in each of the next four to beat Walters State 12-4 in six innings. Carpenter and Pingel each hit home runs along the way. Carpenter also doubled and was 2 for 3 with four RBIs to lead the Lady Raider offense. King, who hits behind her, was 3 for 4 with two RBIs. Kabrien Rogers and Elfrink each had two hits, as well. Carpenter hit a three-run home run in the fourth inning to put Three Rivers ahead 8-3 and Pingel had a two-run homer to end the game in the sixth. Three Rivers had 14 hits after earning just one against Southern Idaho. Macy Rogers pitched all six innings for the win and allowed nine hits and two walks with three strikeouts against an entirely right-handed lineup. Walters State had one extra-base hit. "She battled through (sickness) all day. Of course with Summer being hurt and out, we had to lean on her heavily and she stepped up," Null said. Casey Gilbert took the loss for Walters State (41-13) after giving up five runs over 2 2/3 innings. She allowed five hits, including four doubles, and two walks with no strikeouts. Payton Kelley finished the game and allowed seven runs, nine hits and a walk with three strikeouts over 2 1/2 innings. Three Rivers will lose six sophomores in Scruggs, Law, Kabrien Rogers, Peyton Gunn, Kira Cunningham and Burnett. "That's my first group," Null said. "We are going to miss every one of them. When they came in, our program wasn't in great shape and they are a big reason we are where we are at right now."
Scott Borkgren - Daily American Republic