The University of Houston-Victoria Jaguars came up a run short of defending their Association of Independent Institutions softball crown and earning a berth to the NAIA National Championships.
The Jaguars played host to the A.I.I. Conference Tournament on Thursday through Saturday and finished with a 2-2 record after dropping two one-run games. A victory in either on those games would have advanced them to the NAIA championships and a shot at defending their conference title.
Baylea Wagener pitched a gem in the opener despite having to battle her way out of trouble in the seventh inning. After giving up a two-out single in the first, Wagener retired the next 14 batters she faced, before LSU-Alexandria broke through against the right-handed sophomore.
LSU-A managed to score twice off Wagener before she got Andrea Langley to ground out to Brittany Boren at short to end the game with a 4-2 UHV victory.
The Jaguars jumped out quickly with an unearned run in the first and added two more in the third on a two-run home run to left by Allison Hinton. Hinton, who went 3-for-4 in the game, would drive in another run with a double in the fourth.
The Jaguars used a strong pitching performance from senior Tasha Rotramel and the bat of Courtney Pettit to dispatch Simon Fraser in their second game 3-1.
Rotramel scattered three hits and gave up a second-inning unearned run that gave Simon Fraser a 1-0 lead.
But Pettit’s bat was too much for the Clan. Pettit delivered a three-run blast in the third inning that also scored Izzy Glowney and Claire McGee for a 3-1 lead. Unfortunately for the Jaguars, Pettit would have to leave the game in the fourth after injuring a finger while making a catch at first.
Pettit would miss the Jaguars’ next two games but even without the junior’s big bat in the lineup they battled the two top teams in the tournament to the end, only to come up short by a run in each outing.
While Cal State-San Marcos pitching ace Brenna Sandberg was silencing the Jaguars’ bats for her second straight no-hitter, UHV’s Rotramel was shutting down the Cougars as well.
Rotramel retired the first eight batters she face and had a two-hit shutout working until the sixth when the Cougars managed to push across an unearned run for a 1-0 victory.
The loss forced the Jaguars into a rematch against Simon Fraser with the winner getting a berth to the NAIA national championship and a shot at CSUSM for the conference title.
Simon Fraser wasted little time in jumping on the Jaguars with three runs in the first inning behind a sacrifice fly from Kelsey Haberl and a two-run double from Stefani Durrant.
But the Jaguars hung tough and slowly scratched back to take a 4-3 lead with a pair of runs in third and fourth.
A bases loaded walk to Boren brought home the first run in the third. The Jaguars scored again when the Clan pitcher bobbled a grounder by Rotramel.
Hinton’s two-run single with two outs in the fourth put the Jaguars in front.
But the Clan had just a little firepower left as Chrissy Caviglia opened the fifth with a single and Haberl followed with a two-run home run to center to put the Clan back up 5-4.
Simon Fraser would go on to defeat Cal State-San Marcos by the same 5-4 score to force a second championship game.
But CSUSM’s Sandberg would be too tough for the Clan in the second game a she tossed a five-hit shutout in a 9-0 win to give the Cougars the title. Sandberg was also named the most outstanding player of the tournament.
The Jaguars end the season with a 35-17 record.