Cobras Softball season closes with third place finish
Published: Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 12:05
The Parkland College softball team finished off a remarkable regular and postseason run with a third place finish at the national tournament in Clinton, Miss.
After an outstanding 38-18 regular season, the Cobra ladies were given the No. 2 seed for the region 24 tournament held in Mattoon. It would require four straight wins for them to reach the national tournament instead of five.
Despite the benefit of having to win one less game, Cobras head coach Chuck Clutts still wasn’t expecting an easier road.
“This was my 12th regional and I’m just never comfortable with regionals,” he said.
In the regional opener it certainly showed for the Cobras. They escaped with a 3-2 win over No. 7 seeded John Wood on a walk-off single by Tana Rentschler after Raeshel Braden reached on an error during the previous at bat.
“We came out tight. I don’t know why,” Clutts said. “We had played John Wood twice this year already.”
John Wood made numerous outstanding plays in the field keeping the Cobras from getting anything going throughout the game until that final inning miscue allowed them to pull out a hard fought win in the opener.
The struggles against the John Wood Trailblazers would quickly be forgotten as the offense came alive their next three games of the tourney, outscoring their final three opponents 23-8 while securing a berth at the national tournament. The run included two impressive wins against No. 22 Illinois Central College.
The Cobras 42-18 record and No.11 overall ranking earned them the No.6 seed out of 16 at Nationals and a match up against No. 11 seeded Des Moines Area Community College in their national tourney opener. They once again faced a challenge from the lower seeded team, but unfortunately this time they came up short.
“We couldn’t get the timely hit when we needed it,” Clutts said about the opening loss.
The Bears of Des Moines didn’t need the timely hitting as they took starter Ali Kimble deep three times in the game.
After the tough opening loss, the Cobras quickly had to put it behind them as another game awaited immediately.
“After losing that game our biggest fear was losing two in a row and not advancing to the next day,” he said. That fear would not be realized.
The Cobras had never previously been knocked out after two games and didn’t allow that to happen this year. They bounced back in a big way knocking off Delaware Tech 9-2 to advance to that second day.
Waiting for the Cobras was Mott CC. Mott had beaten Parkland nemesis Kankakee just the day before. It didn’t matter, as the Cobras unleashed more fury in a 15-2 pounding of Mott. They won two more hard-fought one-run games back to back to get to the final day.
The Cobras continued the remarkable run by defeating Cowley CC of Kansas 3-1 the first game of the last day. That marked a stretch of five consecutive wins facing elimination over the course of only two days.
Despite that many games in a short time frame, the Cobras handled it beautifully.
“They did not get tired, they didn’t complain,” Clutts said about his team. “Our philosophy is we’ll play anyone, anywhere, anytime. If one team doesn’t want to be out there, we’re not going to be that team.”
That fight certainly was evident by the way the Cobras outlasted every team in the loser’s bracket to get to the top 3. Their season ended with an 8-0 loss against eventual national champion Phoenix College, AZ and a third place finish overall.
The Cobras had been used to scoring a lot of runs but this postseason it was the defense that really allowed them to make this run.
The Cobras only allowed more than four runs in a postseason game once spanning both tournaments and it was their final one.
“We only made three errors in seven games,” Clutts said. “We are the No. 2 team in the nation on defensive efficiency.”
They committed just five errors the entire postseason covering eleven games.
The pitching combination of Taylor Hull and Ali Kimble was outstanding carrying Parkland through the postseason while combining for an a 2.62 ERA.
“The girls played great defense and our pitchers knew they’re not strikeout pitchers,” he said. “We put the ball where we want it and make them pop up and ground out.”
“Our defense has to make the plays behind them,” Clutts said.
Not only were they outstanding defensively, but offensively the Cobras had many weapons this year.
Taylor Hull, Tana Rentschler, and Kelsey Kniepmann were named to the All-Tournament team at Nationals.
Hull and Kniepmann were also honored as First Team All-MWAC performers along with Second Team performers Ali Kimble, Raeshel Braden, and Liz Sprague.