By David Hughes
Decatur, Ill. — St. Mary-of-the-Woods coaches and players figured they might play Robert Morris-Springfield again after slipping past that team 2-1 Saturday night in the championship bracket of the U.S. Collegiate Athletic Association national softball tournament.
They’d entered that contest as the only unbeatens left in the double-elimination bracket that was narrowed down to four teams by pool play Friday and early Saturday at Borg Warner Sports Complex.
Then Robert Morris-Springfield bounced back to eliminate Spalding 8-2 in a game called in the fifth inning because of rain at about 11:25 p.m. EDT Saturday.
That set up a late-night rematch between The Woods and Robert Morris-Springfield.
But Mother Nature wouldn’t let it happen.
After a lengthy rain delay, tournament officials declared The Woods national champion because of its 2-0 record in the bracket. At that point, only the most hard-core fans were still there to witness a short trophy presentation conducted at about 1 a.m. Sunday under a shelter as steady showers made the complex’s fields unplayable for the rest of the weekend.
This was the Pomeroys’ second USCAA national title in a row and sixth in the last seven years.
“It was kinda different this time,” Woods second-year coach Gary Rodgers admitted.
“But we look at it as we were the champions determined by head-to-head competition. We’re happy with the decision that was made and we‘re satisfied that we’re national champions of the USCAA.”
”It was kinda bittersweet,” added SMWC senior Ashley Loomis, a former Riverton Parke High School standout. “Jessica Ketner [the team’s other senior] and I didn’t know that [2-1 triumph over Robert Morris-Springfield] would be the last game we played. We wanted one more chance to play. But we were happy to take home another national championship.”
For Loomis, this will end up being a memorable two-month stretch. She recently graduated from The Woods with a degree in elementary education and she’ll be marrying Michael Organ of Rosedale on June 28, plus she was named Most Valuable Player of the USCAA national tournament for the second straight year.
“Ashley was very deserving,” Rodgers said. “She definitely did her part, pitching and hitting us through this tournament. We got support for her, defensively and offensively. But Ashley is one of those players who we all look up to to lead us. It is going to be very tough next year realizing we won’t have Ashley Loomis on the diamond for our team, but it’s been a very enjoyable two years coaching Ashley Loomis and Jessica Ketner.”
“I feel like we all deserved it,” Loomis said of the MVP award. “We had a lot of people really step up. Our defense for the last five games was the best we’d had all season. So I think we all deserved it.”
Loomis and junior catcher Ashley Sankey split the six runs batted in during the Pomeroys’ two championship-bracket victories, both pitched by Loomis. Their other win was a 4-1 decision over Judson on Saturday afternoon.
Sankey, who played high school softball at Terre Haute South, delivered an RBI single against Judson and a two-out, two-run double on a 3-2 pitch in the fourth inning against Robert Morris-Springfield.
“My mindset was to focus on every at-bat and just try to make good contact,” said Sankey, who wrapped up her first season with The Woods after playing the previous two seasons at Lincoln Trail College. “The championship was pretty exciting… I wanted us to win it for our seniors and our family and friends who traveled to Decatur and battled that monsoon.”
Loomis, Sankey and Ketner were named to the all-tournament team.
“I would like to have played another game,” mentioned Ketner, another South graduate and a member of the Pomeroys’ championship team last season. “I would like to step on the field and say, ‘This is it.’ But I didn’t get that chance.
“I still think we were more than deserving [of the championship]. We never lost a game all weekend. We had beaten every team there [in the championship bracket]. And if we had kept playing, Robert Morris would have had to beat us two straight games and there’s no way they would have done that.”
Kea Silcock, a junior left fielder and lead-off batter from West Vigo, also enjoyed her consecutive national title with The Woods, despite the unique ending.
“There’s nothing more we could have done about it,” Silcock said. “We beat Robert Morris once. It would have been good to play another game. But with that weather, what could we do?
“It was different from last year because of the rain. But it was still a good experience getting to play. It’s not the way we wanted to win, but that’s why you have to come out and win all of your games at the beginning.”
Robert Morris-Springfield 3, Spalding 1
St. Mary-of-the-Woods 4, Judson 1
Spalding 3, Judson 2, Judson eliminated
St. Mary-of-the-Woods 2, Robert Morris-Springfield 1
Robert Morris-Springfield 8, Spalding 2 (called in fifth inning because of rain), Spalding eliminated
Rest of tournament canceled by rain; St. Mary-of-the-Woods declared champion.
Briarcliffe 9, Southern Virginia 4
Penn State-Beaver 5, Lyndon State 4
Southern Virginia 4, Lyndon State 3, seventh-place game
Penn State-Beaver vs. Briarcliffe (declared no contest because of serious player injury), fifth-place game