News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods

May 15, 2012

A time for firsts: SMWC seniors have national title aspirations

Even though St. Mary-of-the-Woods College has won eight national titles in softball in the last 16 years, seniors Sara Goelz and Jessica Jonas are among the many current Woods players who have not been part of a national championship team.

That’s because the Pomeroys captured national crowns in 1997, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2008.

Goelz, a starting pitcher who has posted an 11-7 record with a 2.43 earned-run average and three shutouts while batting .328 this season, didn’t start playing for The Woods until her freshman season in 2009 and Jonas, a catcher batting .284, transferred from Olney Central College and didn’t start playing for the Pomeroys until 2011.

So when the U.S. Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) nationals start today and continue through Thursday at Firestone Stadium in Akron, Ohio, you can bet Goelz and Jonas will be hungry for their first title. As the No. 4 seed, The Woods will take on fifth-seeded Briarcliffe College at 10 a.m. today to kick off the eight-team, double-elimination tournament.

“They can give us a game,” Woods coach Gary Rodgers said of Briarcliffe. “We’re not looking past anybody. They’ve got one good pitcher and a couple good hitters. They’re solid.”

Carlow University, located in Pittsburgh, is the No. 1 seed, but Rodgers thinks the eventual champion will be one of the Midwest teams. The championship game is slated for noon Thursday, with the “if necessary” game to follow at about 2 p.m.

Rodgers knows the 26-20 Pomeroys, who placed second in the 2011 and 2010 national tournaments, will need strong performances from Goelz and Jonas, among others, to get that far again.

“They’ve both been very dominant on the field,” he said of the SMWC battery mates.

“Jessica is one of the best catchers, if not the best, I’ve ever coached. She’s got a good, quick release, strong arm … and she blocks the ball well. She also calls the majority of our pitches. She reads the batters well.

“As for Sara, from year to year, she’s been our No. 1 pitcher. She hits spots well. She’s not a strikeout pitcher, but she is extremely in control of whatever pitches she throws and she has good ball movement.”

Goelz, a former Warren Central High School athlete who graduated from The Woods this month with a degree in elementary and special education, described the possibility of winning a national championship as “icing on the cake for my senior year and my 18-year softball career.”

“It’s about time we win one,” she continued. “For the past few games of the regular season, we’ve really come together and we’ve got more hits … not leaving so many baserunners on.”

Goelz, who has a counseling job lined up for a summer camp, admitted that she’ll spend non-softball time in Akron sending out resumés in search of career employment. But she promised that won’t interfere with her concentration during games and pregame warm-ups.

Jonas, a former Ben Davis High School athlete who graduated from The Woods with a degree in criminal justice, also will be job-searching during her down time this week. But she preferred to talk about the Pomeroys coming back to Terre Haute as USCAA national champions.

“I think we have a really good chance this year,” she told the Tribune-Star over the weekend. “We closed our season by finally finding our chemistry. We found the right lineup for us… I’d love to have [the national title] and I think coach Rodgers would love to have one more.”

“I like our chances,” assessed Rodgers, who guided the Pomeroys to national championships in ’07 and ’08.

Also worth noting, Rodgers said this is the first season that the USCAA has used a double-elimination format instead of pool play to determine its national champion.

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