Wichita State’s softball team was in the right place at the right time Saturday against Drake.
The Shockers turned three double plays in the first four innings and broke open the Missouri Valley Conference tournament championship game with a four-run fifth. Wichita State (35-19) captured its first tournament title since 1989 and its first NCAA berth since 2005 with a 5-0 win over Drake at West Stadium.
“We made some great plays,” Shockers first baseman Cacy Williams said. “Kelli Spring made a couple of great plays for us that kinda made the momentum keep going, and our pitchers kept the ball in the field, and we were happy to see our defense play well.”
Spring erased Drake’s first baserunner of the game in the top of the first inning after making a diving stop on Megan Sowa’s line drive near second base. Spring laid out to catch the line drive, then stepped on second to double up Kelsey Wright, who had headed for third thinking the ball would reach the outfield.
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Williams ended the third after Wright and Kennedy Frank hit back-to-back singles to put runners on the corners. Sowa, one of the Bulldogs’ four first team all-conference picks, hit Jenni Brooks’ second pitch right to Williams near the bag. She stepped on first to complete the double play and keep Wichita State’s 1-0 lead.
It was deja vu for Drake (30-24) in the fourth. With runners on the corners, Kaitlyn Finneran lined out right to Williams. The MVC player of the year quickly threw across the diamond to third baseman Liz Broyles, who tagged out Kailee Smith as she dove back to the bag.
“Sometimes you can find holes, and other times you hit ’em right at, and you gotta give Wichita State a lot of credit,” Drake coach Rich Calvert said. “They made all the plays when they needed to make ’em. They came up with that one big inning, and put the ball in play, and found all the holes. Our kids played hard, we just came up short.”
Brittany Fortner, who broke the MVC career doubles record with her 57th in the second inning, added another one during the four-run fifth. She was named tournament MVP and joined Derrico, Brooks and pitcher Katie Malone on the all-tournament team.
Instead of watching the NCAA Selection Show (ESPNU, 9 p.m.) Sunday night at coach Kristi Bredbenner’s house, the team will have a viewing party at Koch Arena.
“The game plan was if we lost (Saturday), we’d have a party at my house just because it’d be more personal, less media,” Bredbenner said. “But the plan (Sunday) is to have a celebration, and these girls deserve it.”
Watch party – Doors to Koch Arena will open at 8:45 p.m. for Sunday’s watch party in the Champions Club at Koch Arena, which is free and open to the public. The selection show begins at 9 p.m. on ESPNU.
0 7 0
5 9 1
W – Brooks (18-6). L — Newman (22-13). S — Malone (5).
Wichita State batting — Williams 2-3, Wright 1-3, Luellen 0-2, Broyles 0-3, Fortner 2-3, Hitz 0-2, Johnson 1-2, Derrico 2-3, Spring 1-3.
Wichita State pitching — Brooks 4 2/3-0, Malone 2 1/3-0.