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Lady Eagles’ regional tournament run ends with loss in title game

Kala Ratliff hit a key three-run home run in an NCCAA Central Region semifinal win over Oklahoma Wesleyan.
Kala Ratliff hit a key three-run home run in an NCCAA Central Region semifinal win over Oklahoma Wesleyan.

CONWAY, Ark. (April 27, 2013) – Oklahoma Christian’s run through the National Christian College Athletic Association Central Region tournament ended Saturday night with a 14-8 loss to Central Baptist (Ark.) at City of Colleges Park.

Third-seeded OC posted dominating wins over Hillsdale Baptist and Oklahoma Wesleyan to advance to the final and overcame an early 5-1 deficit to lead Central Baptist 8-5, but couldn’t hang on in the final innings against the Mustangs.

Central Baptist (32-10), ranked fifth in the NCCAA, earned a spot in the NCCAA Championship next week in Troutville, Va. OC possibly closed a transitional season – one during which the Lady Eagles began the move into NCAA Division II and played only seven home games – at 22-22.

OC still has a shot at moving on to the NCCAA tournament should Central Baptist win its NAIA conference tournament next week. If that happens, Central Baptist would go to the NAIA national tournament, while OC would head to Virginia for the NCCAA event as the regional runnerup.

Tracy Ratliff’s grand slam in the bottom of the first inning off OC starter Lindsy Moore (8-10) put the Mustangs ahead 5-1, but the Lady Eagles roared back with five runs in the top of the second inning. OC’s Kendra Pierce answered with a grand slam of her own to put the Lady Eagles up 6-5.

OC made it 8-5 in the top of the third on a two-run double to right-center field by Lauren Chatigny. But that’s when the Lady Eagles ran out of gas.

Central Baptist, which leads the NAIA in runs scored per game, jumped on Moore for six runs in the bottom of the third to take an 11-8 lead, taking advantage of two OC errors. Christen Kirchner delivered the big blow for the Mustangs with a two-run double.

Peyton Jenkins (8-1) came on in relief of Jessica Sheldon in the fourth inning for Central Baptist and limited the Lady Eagles to two hits and no runs in 3 2/3 innings. Meanwhile, the Mustangs added two insurance runs in the fifth and one more in the sixth off OC reliever Krystal Rodriguez.

OC stranded nine baserunners, which hurt the Lady Eagles’ cause. Four Central Baptist players had at least two hits, with Jessica Tickle leading the way, going 3-for-4 with two RBIs and three runs scored.

OC advanced to the title game with a 7-0 thumping of second-seeded Oklahoma Wesleyan (35-14) in the semifinals. Taylor Mosher (8-5) blanked OWU on two hits, striking out five and walking three.

Kala Ratliff broke a scoreless tie in the fourth inning with a three-run home run over the left-center field wall off OWU starter Courtney Carson. Ratliff’s homer followed singles by Pierce and Courtney Starr.

In the fifth, Martha Thomas hit a solo home run (her 10th longball of the season) to make it 4-0 and the Lady Eagles added three more runs in the sixth, with Sarah Peoples and Monique Elliott delivering RBI singles.

The rout of Oklahoma Wesleyan followed a 10-2 first-round romp over Hillsdale Baptist (6-33). Pierce went 2-for-3 with five RBIs, hitting a two-run single to put OC ahead for good in the bottom of the first inning, then smashing a three-run homer to left-center field during a five-run fourth inning for the Lady Eagles.

The game ended after five innings due to the run rule.

OC senior Michelle Miller also hit her first home run of the season, a two-run shot in the second inning off Hillsdale Baptist starter Natalie Flores.

Moore went the distance in the circle for OC, allowing two runs and six hits in five innings.