NORMAL — One run was all Heartland Community College needed Friday in its first losers bracket game at the NJCAA Division II National Softball Tournament.
While freshman right-hander Hanna Mennenga saw to that with a one-hitter against Labette (Kan.), no one in the Hawks’ dugout had illusions of a 1-0 victory over the next opponent, South Mountain (Ariz.).
“I heard that they hit their 100th home run (of the season) earlier today, so we knew they were going to hit the ball,” Mennenga said.
True to form, South Mountain had two homers among its 15 hits and scored in all but one inning in an 11-6 victory over the Hawks at Champion Fields, ending Heartland’s fourth straight national tournament with a tie for seventh place.
“We knew we had to hit, and we had not hit too well this weekend,” Hawks’ first-year coach John Bassett said. “We started to get it together a little bit, but we just couldn’t follow through with the momentum.”
Fifth-seeded Heartland (39-21) erased a 3-0 deficit with a five-run third against Jennifer Yazzie and Kaylee Pritchett. Mackenzie Foiles, Heather Luth and Rachael Anello had run-scoring singles.
South Mountain coach Kristina Graham inserted Alexis Villegas to start the fourth and she held the Hawks to one run on five hits.
The Cougars rallied with two in the fourth, one in the fifth, two in the sixth and three in the seventh against Mennenga (24-11), who was pitching her fourth game in two days.
“I’d rather get beat the way we did with them hitting the ball than us making errors,” Anello said. “They were a good team and they beat us.”
Sabeana Romero and Tahlisa Blosser homered for No. 8 seed South Mountain, helping offset a 10-hit Heartland attack led by two each from Anello, Foiles and Hailley Haning.
“We had a few errors (two) and they had some errors, too (four),” said Haning, a former Olympia High School star. “It just came down to they had more hits than we did.”
Earlier, Heartland outhit Labette 7-1. Mennenga struck out nine, walked two and stranded three runners in scoring position, one on a diving catch by center fielder Ariel Frantz in the third.
Frantz led off the bottom of the inning with a single and scored on Anello’s two-out double. Lindsey Crawford had two hits for Heartland.
Bassett said the Hawks should feel good about a season that began with uncertainty and a 4-11 record.
“With only 11 kids and me coming in a week before school started and a few kids coming in at the semester, they overachieved for sure,” he said. “They reached their potential, and that’s all you can ask.”
LSU-Eunice unbeaten: Top-seeded LSU-Eunice won twice Friday and is the only unbeaten team among the four remaining. Other teams left are No. 2 Kankakee, No. 4 Owens (Ohio) and South Mountain.