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Lady Senators advance to NJCAA Softball World Series
 May 7, 2013

GALLATIN, Tenn. – Soaked head to toe from a Gatorade bath, Walters State Lady Senators coach Larry Sauceman took a minute to let the moment sink in. He smiled in realization that he would be taking his team to the national tournament for the first time.

After several close calls in the past, the Lady Senators softball program hit new heights Monday by advancing to the NJCAA Division I World Series in St. George, Utah, after puling off an incredible comeback in the TCCAA-NJCAA Region VII Tournament championship game against Columbia State.

Facing a 6-0 deficit in the fifth inning, Walters State plated a run in the fifth and seven in the sixth, with sophomore Haley Taylor belting the go-ahead and eventual game-winning grand slam in an 8-6 victory over the Lady Chargers at Volunteer State in Gallatin.

With the win, the 14th ranked Lady Senators improve to 38-7 on the year and will play in the national championship tournament on May 15-18 in Utah.

The loss ends the season for Columbia State with a 38-16 mark after they won a consolation bracket game Sunday to get back into the championship tilt.

“What an incredible comeback,” Sauceman said after the win. “This is one of the best comebacks I have ever been associated with. I’m so happy and proud of what this team has accomplished, and to win it lie we did today, that was the icing on the cake.”

For nearly five innings, the Lady Senators seemed destined to play a second championship game, but then the comeback started with sophomore Latosha Rectenwald. The Morristown East product drilled a solo homer in the top of the fifth with two outs to get Walters State on the board.

In the sixth, the Lady Senators completed the comeback. Hannah Kiser and Andrea Eison ripped back-to-back doubles to score a run before Courtney Hutcherson walked and Kaylea Payne singled to plate another run.

Columbia State made pitching change with one out in the inning, pulling All TCCAA first team hurler Shelby Dawson in favor of Lacie Patterson. The reliever balked two runners into scoring position before hitting Lindsee Price with a pitch and walking Katelyn Stewart to bring home another run. After a force out at the plate for the second out, Patterson left a pitch up to Taylor, who clubbed it deep over the left field fence for an 8-6 lead.

“That was a blast from Taylor,” Sauceman said. “She was clutch in the tournament last year, and it doesn’t get much more clutch than a game-winning grand slam after being down 6-0. Rectenwald got it started, and everybody just started hitting it well after that. What a finish, just an incredible finish.”

Kelsey Weddle, who started the game before leaving in favor of Taylor Green for two innings, returned in the bottom of the sixth and retired all six batters she faced to end the game and get the save. When second baseman Kendi King caught a popup for the final out, the Lady Senators ended up in a dog pile with Sauceman and assistant coach Mitch Taylor joining in on the celebration.

The Lady Chargers built the lead with two unearned runs in the first inning after a pair of errors, and they added four more runs in the fourth on a pair of RBI singles by Patterson and Juliana Melton. Rebecca Curtis added a two-run double to make it 6-0. The lead could have been bigger, but Greene got a force out with the bases loaded and a fly ball to end the inning.

Taylor and Kiser both had two hits to lead the Lady Senators, while Payne, Eison, Stewart and Rectenwald each added a hit in the win.

Curtis, Patterson and Mandy Bunnell each had two hits in the loss.

Green (5-2) got the win after allowing three hits in two innings of relief. Weddle got the save, her first of the season, after combining to toss five innings while allowing six runs – three earned – on four hits with six strikeouts.

Patterson (6-3) took the loss after giving up three earned runs on one hit in 1.2 innings of relief. Dawson worked 5.1 innings and surrendered five earned runs on seven hits while fanning 11 batters.

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