Lady Raiders open with win over Yavapai at NJCAA national tournament

Lady Raiders open with win over Yavapai at NJCAA national tournament

YUMA, Ariz. — The Raiders started their run at the national tournament by upsetting the locals.

The 10th-seeded Raiders were the only team to pull off an upset in the opening round when they beat seventh-seeded Yavapai (Ariz.) 7-4 in the first round of the NJCAA World Series on Tuesday in Yuma, Ariz.

Yavapai, located north of Phoenix and about four hours from Yuma, was the only team from Arizona in the tournament.

The Raiders (43-4) will face second-seeded Butler (Kan.) in the second round of the double-elimination tournament at 6 p.m. (CDT) Wednesday. Butler (50-2) beat Trinity Valley (Texas) 10-2 in six innings Tuesday.

A win would advance Three Rivers to the semifinals of the winner's bracket at 2 p.m. Thursday, and a loss would mean Three Rivers would play again at 10 p.m. Wednesday against the winner of 16th-seeded Georgia Military, or ninth-seeded Chattanooga State.

Yavapai (36-6) will play eighth 15th-seeded Trinity Valley (Texas) at 2 p.m. Wednesday.

"We didn't play our best and somehow still came away with a win, showed some toughness. Now we have to get some rest and clean it up a little bit for tomorrow. We need to play better if we are going to beat Butler," Three Rivers coach Jeff Null said. "The girls played tough. We didn't play well, but we played tough. We made so many mistakes early in the game that cost us runs."

The Raiders have now won 14 straight games going back to April 16.

Kindi Puckett (22-2) continued to dominate in the circle with her eighth straight win. The Roughriders entered Tuesday's game on a 19-game winning streak and had scored at least nine runs in each of their last 15 games.

Puckett allowed seven hits and four walks with eight strikeouts.

"I was relying on my defense. I was pitching to let them hit, and if they hit, I rely on my defense. I love my defense, probably the best in the country right now," Puckett said.

Puckett has allowed more than four earned runs only once this season. In her first matchup against Crowder on March 28, Puckett was tipping her pitches, and Crowder got 10 hits, five home runs and nine earned runs, all season-highs against Puckett.

Field conditions were a concern for Null entering the tournament. Grounders bounced harder against the dry, desert infields.

Yavapai tied the game at one in the fourth inning after the Raiders committed a pair of errors on the same play, allowing the leadoff runner to reach third.

With one out, Megan Parsley got an RBI groundout.

In the sixth, the Raiders had the bases loaded with two outs.

Fayth Rakes, batting eighth, hit a high bouncing grounder to the right side and beat the throw to score the go-ahead run.

Null called on Thomas to pinch-hit.

"Coach Null does that to me a lot, so I was kind of expecting it, kind of not. Whenever he said that, I thought, 'Welp, here goes nothing.'" said Thomas, who has six home runs in 74 at-bats and a .500 batting average.

Thomas fouled off a changeup, then a fastball, and predicted she'd get another fastball. She pulled it past the shortstop to score two.

"I got excited. I'm glad it opened up everything. Hitting is contagious, so I'm glad I could start it and get it going," Thomas said.

Rolling things over the top of the lineup, Null made another change and called on Cayton Sloan to pinch-hit for the slap-hitting leadoff hitter Jenny Morey.

Sloan got a hard grounder through the right side to score another run. Then Blair Quarles, re-entering for Thomas, scored on a double steal, and Molly Spangler, who had two hits, singled up the middle to score Morey from second, putting the Raiders ahead 7-1.

Brianna Everett also had two hits and drove in a run in the first inning.

"We used a lot of kids every game (all year). They kind of know when I'm going to put them in to hit and who is going to run," Null said. "I think it paid off. Doing that all year long and having those kids know their roles when get in there, they are comfortable."


Scott Borkgren - Daily American Republic