The Orion

Wildcats win West, move on to Super Regionals vs. No. 3 Dixie State

Chico+State+softball+celebrates+their+NCAA+West+Regional+Title+Saturday.+Photo+credit%3A+Martin+Chang
Chico State softball celebrates their NCAA West Regional Title Saturday. Photo credit: Martin Chang

Chico State softball celebrates their NCAA West Regional Title Saturday. Photo credit: Martin Chang

Chico State softball celebrates their NCAA West Regional Title Saturday. Photo credit: Martin Chang

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The Chico State softball team is the NCAA West Regional Champions after a come-from-behind 7-2 victory over Cal Baptist in the tournament final. The Wildcats extended their win streak to 28, their overall record to 53-3 and their 23rd straight win at University Softball Field.

In a rematch of yesterday’s nine-inning game, the Wildcats proved once again why they are the No. 1 team in California Collegiate Athletic Association and No. 2 amongst all Division II teams in the nation.

Chico State won its first two games in the double-elimination tournament leading up to Saturday’s matchup against CBU. Wins against Northwest Nazarene and Cal Baptist to start the tournament gave the Wildcats the opportunity to play just one game Sunday.

The Lancers struck first in the bottom of the fourth inning after a single by Soraya Shahbazian was followed by two Wildcat errors. An infield single to first baseman Cyrena Taylor gave CBU a 2-0 advantage after four innings.

The Wildcats have shown that come-from-behind wins are something that they are more than capable of, which they proved in the sixth inning when they rallied to take the lead late in the game.

Coming off the bench, Mia Quintero came in to pinch hit for Cyrenna Taylor in a crucial at bat for the Wildcats. Quintero’s sacrifice bunt moved the runners into scoring position.

“Coach told me right away if there is a situation where there will be a bunting situation, I was going to go in. I knew what I needed to do and needed to get the bunt down that was it,” Quintero said.

With two runners on, Bailey Akins reached on a fielder’s choice, scoring Kristen Worley and trimming the lead to one.

This left bases loaded for catcher Claire Wayne who has been preparing for a moment like this all season long.

“I told myself I have come to this situation many times before and wasn’t very successful and I kept telling myself hard work wins, I’ve worked for this and I am going to get it when it matters,” Wayne said.

Wayne did just that doubling to right center clearing the bases giving the Wildcats a 4-2 lead.

“I made the adjustment in the box because I kept dropping (my shoulder) so I got up on the line, made that adjustment and got the line drive which was huge mentally for me,” Wayne said.

The rally didn’t stop there for the Wildcats. after Megan Bowley singled through the left side, scoring pinch runner Breanna Martin and extending the lead 5-2.

Number eight hitter Amanda Flores credits the team’s strong lineup as well as all the hard work put in by herself as well as number seven and eight hitters Wayne and Bowley.

“Having such a strong top of the lineup that puts us in the game-winning situations is what really makes us great,” Flores said. “But I really do believe that Claire, Megan and I have stepped up. We work hard at practice to be the best hitters we can be and just keep our consistency.”

The Wildcats scored two insurance runs off of a two-run home run from Karli Skowrup extending the lead to 7-2. With that home run, Skowrup earned RBIs 59 and 60, a new Chico State single-season RBI record.

“I was kind of struggling this whole week with that and I kind of tried to just slow it down. We noticed that their new pitcher was just leaving it up and she was going a lot of inside and that’s my thought process. If I see a ball up, I’m hacking at it,” Skowrup said.

The Lancers tried to rally back in the seventh inning but the defense by shortstop Wendy Cardinali got in their way. Cardinali ended the NCAA West Regional tournament the same way she ended the CCAA Championships. She saved a base hit with a diving stop flipping the ball to second baseman Skowrup for the final out of the game.

“I have confidence in my ability and confidence in my defense. I want this ball I want to end this game right now,” Cardinali said.

Chico State now advances to the NCAA West Super Regional next week starting Thursday. The Wildcats will take on the region’s No. 3 seed Dixie State in a best-of-three series May 17-18 in St. George, Utah. A win would mean a trip to Virginia for the NCAA Championship Finals.

Katalina Santamaria and Justin Couchot can be reached at [email protected] or @katalinaleanet and @JCouchot_Sports on Twitter.

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Wildcats win West, move on to Super Regionals vs. No. 3 Dixie State