By David Hughes
MATTOON, ILL. — St. Mary-of-the-Woods left no doubt which softball team was superior in the 2007 U.S. Collegiate Athletic Association national tournament Friday and Saturday at the Roundhouse Complex.
Using several players who grew up in the Wabash Valley, the Pomeroys dominated the competition and routed Judson (Ala.) 11-0 in five innings in the championship game Saturday night to stamp an exclamation point on a 5-0 weekend. They finished the season with a 25-13 record.
This was The Woods’ fifth USCAA title in the last six years and the first with Gary Rodgers as coach. Ashley Loomis, a junior and former Riverton Parke High School standout from Rosedale, pitched two shutouts over Judson and hit a three-run homer against defending USCAA champion Robert Morris-Springfield on Saturday to earn the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award.
“We all came together,” Loomis assessed after the final game. “We had a lot of drama [dealing with nervousness Friday], but we came together at the perfect time.”
After going 2-0 in pool play Friday, The Woods started the double-elimination portion of the tournament Saturday by blanking Judson 3-0. Besides Loomis’ four-hit pitching, the winners got a 3-for-4 hitting performance from Allison Tomey.
Later in the day, Rodgers’ squad downed Robert Morris-Springfield 11-4 after it fell behind 4-0. Loomis’ three-run blast to deep left-center field capped a five-run third inning that put the Pomeroys ahead to stay.
“Loomis broke it open for us with that home run,” Rodgers said. “They didn’t know it, but they were pitching right into her alley [low] … After that, our defense settled down and Theresa Alley did a good job of pitching.”
After that, Judson needed an 11-7 triumph over Robert Morris-Springfield to force a rematch with The Woods.
The rematch was no contest.
Loomis — who allowed only a third-inning double to Misty Jones and two walks in five innings of mound duty — received plenty of offensive support, some of it from herself.
Tomey led off the bottom of the first with a single and a stolen base before she advanced to third base on a wild pitch and raced home on a passed ball.
The next batter, Erica Ketner of Terre Haute, beat out an infield single, stole second and immediately moved up to third on a passed ball on the same play. One out later, Loomis tripled off the right-field fence to bring home Ketner to increase the Pomeroys’ advantage to 2-0.
Loomis admitted she doesn’t get many triples, because triples usually require speed, which is not her primary attribute.
“The coach was waving me on and I said to myself, ‘Are you kidding me? I’ve gotta go to third?’” Loomis recalled with a laugh.
The Pomeroys added four more runs in the second to pad their cushion to 6-0. Stacy Kutcher led off by getting hit by a pitch. One out later, Tomey doubled over the left fielder’s head to plate Kutcher and she advanced to third on the throw home.
With two outs, Alley bloop-singled in Tomey and Loomis followed with a double that one-hopped off the right-center-field fence. Then former West Vigo standout Amanda Daniel knocked both of them in with a double into the right-center-field gap.
The Woods hammered the final nail in Judson’s coffin with five runs in the fourth. Tomey led off with another single and another steal, then Ketner drove an RBI double down the left-field line. Alley followed with an RBI single and Loomis reached on an error.
Daniel singled to score courtesy-runner Alisha Mosier before Lindsey McNulty reached on a fielder’s choice. Kutcher capped off the outburst by looping a two-run single into center.
“We played awesome,” Daniel said during the postgame celebration. “We played as a team. We played like a national-championship team.”
“This group peaked at the right time,” emphasized Rodgers, who had coached plenty of good teams in 20 years combined at Lincoln Trail and Olney Central colleges without winning a national title. “They were hard to beat all day. I’m really proud of them.”
For the game, The Woods stole five bases, two by Tomey.
“We came out and took it away from them right away in the first inning,” Rodgers said. “I think our speed was too much for their defense.”
“Taking advantage of every situation, especially when you’ve got speed on the bases, it always helps,” Tomey noted. “Speed can be a little intimidating, I think.”
Woods seniors Tomey, Ketner, Daniel, Kutcher, Mosier and Erin Brackney all played the final games of their collegiate careers Saturday. For Ketner, this was the final time she got to play with her younger sister/teammate Jessica Ketner.
“It’s been great,” Erica Ketner reflected. “But it’s kind of sad that it’s all over.”
• • •
• Tournament notes — Four members of The Woods were named to the all-tournament team. They are Daniel, Erica Ketner, Tomey and Loomis.
Early Saturday games
SMWC 012 000 0 — 3 6 0
Judson 000 000 0 — 0 4 1
Loomis (W, 12-1) and Brackney; Bounds, Eubanks (4) and Glass.
Highlights — For The Woods, Allison Tomey went 3 for 4 and Amanda Daniel singled in a run in the third inning.
Robert Morris-Springfield 004 000 0 — 4 7 2
SMWC 005 213 x — 11 15 1
Neff and Doarn; Alley (W, 5-5) and Brackney. HR — SMWC: Loomis (12).
Highlights — For The Woods, Ashley Loomis went 3 for 4 with a three-run homer in the third, a double and four RBIs, Jessica Ketner went 2 for 4 with a double and two RBIs, Allison Tomey went 2 for 4 with a double, Amanda Daniel went 2 for 4 with two RBIs, Erica Ketner also went 2 for 4 and winning pitcher Theresa Alley went 1 for 4 with two RBIs.
Other Saturday scores – Judson 5, Penn State-Beaver 3; St. Joseph’s (N.Y.) 6, Briarcliffe 5; Robert Morris-Springfield 12, St. Joseph’s 0 (5 innings); Penn State-Beaver 13, Briarcliffe 0 (5 innings); Judson 4, St. Joseph’s 1; Judson 11, Robert Morris-Springfield 7.