Photo by Matt Reynolds
Kayla Riggs crosses the plate following a home run
JACKSONVILLE, Ala. – SIUE softball earned the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament with a convincing 12-1 victory in six innings in the championship game of the 2014 Ohio Valley Conference Tournament.
The softball Cougars, 30-21, became the first SIUE team to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament in the Division I era. The Cougars will play next weekend at a time and place to be determined when the NCAA releases the complete tournament bracket at 9 p.m. CT on ESPNU.
SIUE went undefeated in the OVC Tournament behind the arm of left-hander Haley Chambers and a barrage of home runs. The Cougars hit seven homers in three games of the tournament at University Field after hitting just nine during the regular season.
Chambers led SIUE's contingent on the All-Tournament team and was named the Most Valuable Player after going 3-0 in the Championships and improving her season record to 18-13.
Third baseman Alex McDavid, first baseman Kayla Riggs, and shortstop Chelsea Yankolovich also were selected to the All-Tournament team.
"We're extremely, extremely excited," said SIUE Head Coach Sandy Montgomery.
The OVC Tournament dealt with two straight days of rain. It washed out the tournament all day Friday and most of Saturday when tournament officials eliminated the consolation bracket and deemed that two teams left in the winner's bracket would play a winner-take-all game to decide the OVC title.
Having not played since Thursday at 12:30 p.m., the Cougars were more than anxious to take the field.
"We were itching to play all day," said Chambers. "We wanted this win. We wanted to get back at Murray State because they swept us this season. We wanted to prove that we deserved to be out here and we deserved to get this win."
SIUE, the visitors on the scoreboard, jumped out to the lead on a two-out solo home run by McDavid to right center field.
Rachel Coonrod quickly followed that with a single down the left field line. Chambers then put SIUE up 3-0 with an opposite-field blast to left field.
SIUE extended the lead to 5-0 in the second with solo home runs by Kayla Riggs and Whitney Lanphier.
The Cougars entered the tournament having hit nine home runs in its first 48 games. SIUE batters combined for seven home runs during the three games at University Field.
SIUE added one run in the fifth and six more in the sixth inning, taking advantage of four Murray State errors and finishing with a season-high 14 hits.
Chambers hurled a three-hit gem, allowing a single tally in the third inning.
"This means everything," said Chambers. "This is everything we have worked for since day one. I don't have words to describe it right now. It's amazing. It's an amazing feeling."
Murray State completed its season with a 32-23 record.