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Softball Finishes Monster Season

A 2-1 loss Saturday to North Idaho at the NJCAA national tournament certainly stung, but it cannot taint the memorable season of the Eastern Arizona College softball team. The Lady Gila Monsters finished in third place at the national tournament in Plant City, Fla., and will likely be ranked somewhere in the top four of the final NJCAA softball rankings when they are released.

EAC won its first three games of the tournament — 9-1 over Lincoln Trail (Ill.), 1-0 over Texarkana College, and 9-1 over Georgia Perimeter. The Monsters’ offense put on a show Friday in the fourth inning against Georgia Perimeter. They scored seven runs in the frame, and the highlight of the inning was a grand slam by ACCAC Player of the Year Marina Gusman-Brown. Eastern’s fourth game was against the No. 1-ranked team in the country, Chipola College (Fla.), on Friday night. EAC got on the scoreboard first in the opening frame. Gusman-Brown walked to lead off the inning and advanced to second on a Buffy Godfrey double. Liz McBride was 3-4 with a homer and three RBIs, and Cheynah Farley hit a two-run shot in the sixth. With two outs, Jackie Tema singled to score Gusman-Brown and give the Monsters an early 1-0 lead. Chipola did its damage in the top of the third inning, and the EAC defense made some key mistakes to open the door for the Lady Indians. Christal Kotchman and Cassie Lassiter had run-scoring doubles in the inning, and two errors kept the frame alive for Chipola, which scored four times to take a 4-1 lead. In the bottom of the third, Farley hit a two-out solo home run to cut the Indians’ lead to 4-2. The Monsters, however, did not score again in the game and lost 5-2 even though they outhit the Indians 9-8. Kaci Lewis and Farley each went 2-4 to lead the offense. Noe Esperas pitched all seven innings for EAC and allowed five runs (one earned) on eight hits. She struck out three and walked one.

Because the tournament was double-elimination, the Monsters were not yet out of contention. They played No. 8 seed North Idaho on Saturday for a chance to compete in the championship game. EAC got a terrific pitching performance from star Tiffany Garofano, but in the end she was outdueled by North Idaho’s Kelcey Cavan. Garofano surrendered just six hits and two runs (none earned) in six innings while striking out seven and walking one. Cavan, however, pitched a no-hitter over seven innings, and the only run scored by the Monsters came on a passed ball in the sixth inning. Tema, Melissa Baker and Joyce Delp went down in order in the top of the seventh to end the game.

North Idaho went on to play Chipola for the national championship, and the Florida-based Indians took home the title. Baker was the only Monster named to the 12-player all-tournament team, and she batted .300 in five tournament games. Farley hit .375 and drove in five runs, and Gusman-Brown had six RBIs in the tourney.

Story written by Brian Wright

Sports Editor

Eastern Arizona Courier