Wildcats' List Of Awards Grows With Team Of The Week
The Wildcats won four straight games to win the GNAC Softball Championships and earn the conference's automatic bid to the West Regional tournament.
The Wildcats won four straight games to win the GNAC Softball Championships and earn the conference's automatic bid to the West Regional tournament.

Monday, May 2, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore.  – With a GNAC championship and a regional berth in hand, the Central Washington softball team brought in another accolade, receiving the Red Lion Team of the Week award.

“Our entire coaching staff was very fortunate to inherit a great group of young ladies like this,” said first year head coach Mike Larabee. “From the very first day we met, I could really tell they had a fire and a drive in their eyes. Everybody from top to bottom has bought into this program and I am just very, very proud of them.”

After a rough start to the GNAC Softball Championships, losing their first game 2-0 to Saint Martin’s, Central Washington responded with four straight wins to take the tournament title. The Wildcats outscored their opponents 37-11 over the final four games, which included two eight-run rule blowouts.

With their backs against the wall, the Wildcats were in a must-win situation after falling in their first game. In the first elimination game of the tournament on Friday, Central Washington faced Concordia. The two teams went back-and-forth offensively, with the lead changing hands four different times. Trailing 6-5 in the fifth inning, the Wildcats scored three runs in the bottom half of the inning to take the lead for good. Kayla Smith earned the victory in relief, pitching 2.2 shutout innings to close out the game.

“I said to the team that the most important game that you play is the game coming off a loss,” said Larabee. “They came out and took care of business in the game against Concordia and we just rolled from there.”

Playing in back-to-back games, the Wildcats were next faced with host Saint Martin’s, the team that had beaten them 2-0 the day before. This time, the Wildcats’ bats could not be cooled off as they scored six runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to win 8-0, walking off with a RBI single by first baseman Kailyn Campbell. Smith threw a five-inning shutout, allowing three hits with one walk. Tournament Most Valuable Player Alexa Olague finished 2 for 3 with two RBI and a home run.

The Wildcats advanced to the championship day, needing two wins to claim the title against Western Oregon. For the second straight game, Central Washington eight-run ruled its opponent, winning 11-2 over the Wolves. The Wildcats scored six runs in the third inning and four runs in the fifth inning. Catcher Austin Wilkerson’s fifth inning grand slam proved to be the decisive blow, putting Central Washington up by nine runs. Smith earned the win for the third straight game, allowing two runs in five innings.

In the winner-take-all game, Central Washington got off to a hot start with seven runs in the first two innings and never looked back taking the title with a 9-3 victory. Wilkerson drove in three more runs as did designated hitter Brielle Copodonna. GNAC Pitcher of the Year Kiana Wood pitched a complete game, allowing three runs in seven innings.

Olague was the tournament MVP after finishing 8 for 13 in the five games with four RBI, three runs and a home run.

“I am really happy for Alexa, very well deserving,” said Larabee. “She came in this year and put in the work every single day. [The tournament MVP] couldn’t go to a better person there, she bleeds crimson and black and she has been a great Wildcat for her entire career.”

Central Washington won the GNAC tournament after claiming the regular season title. They were also selected as the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Division II Softball West Region Championships, announced Monday. They will face No. 7 seed Dixie State in their first national tournament appearance since 2011.