Drover Softball Wins NAIA Regional

FARMERS BRANCH, Texas - Armed with a simple piece of advice ­ "Keep your head still" ­ and with one swing of the bat, USAO senior Kristin Kauk belted a rare inside-the-park home run to spark the Drovers to two straight wins over No. 3 Houston Baptist and take their first-ever regional softball championship late Friday night.

With four wins in the regional, USAO improves to a program-best 47-9-1 record and automatically qualifies for the NAIA national tournament, scheduled for May 21-26 at Wilson Morgan Softball Complex in Decatur, Ala. It is also USAO's first national tournament berth in the program¹s nearly eight-year history.

"How fitting was it for Kristin (Kauk) to start us off with a home run," said coach Julie Vergenz. "Kristin has been here with me from the beginning, and I'm truly happy for her and our team. Last December, the girls made it their goal to make the national tournament. We yelled "Decatur' in our huddles, and we made it with hard work and determination. This is huge for our program."

The march to the Region VI title at Oran Good Park wasn't an easy one. USAO won its first game 4-0 against conference-rival and seventh-ranked Oklahoma City, but suffered a disheartening 4-0 loss to No. 3 Houston Baptist. That game was continued into Friday afternoon, after heavy rain showers moved into the area on Thursday night.

"After our loss to Houston Baptist, we could have folded," Vergenz said. "We hadn't been beaten like that in a while. But, I was proud of the way our team came back and won three huge games over highly-ranked teams.

Houston Baptist threw the same girl (in the second game) as they did when they beat us."

With the two wins over Oklahoma City, the Drovers improve to 5-1 against the Stars this season, including 3-of-4 in their conference series. In addition, USAO faced the same two opponents in each of its five games at Oran Good Park. Other teams in the regional were St. Gregory's, Northwestern OSU and Bacone College.

USAO 4, Houston Baptist 0

USAO got the benefit of two Houston Baptist errors to score three runs in the bottom of the first for an early 3-0 lead. That would be all senior Jamie Pendley would need to shut down the Huskies offense. The right-hander allowed just three hits and struck out ten to improve to 18-2 on the season.

In the three-run first inning, Kauk started things off with a single, followed by sophomore Courtney Foley's single. Sophomore Dana Askins' sacrifice bunt sent Kauk to third and Foley to second. The pair scored when Pendley reached base on an error. Freshman Morgan Skelley, then, reached on another error. Senior Alissa Cordes belted a single in the next at-bat to score Pendley. The Drovers' added another run in the fourth on a single by Foley to score freshman J.J. Parrish.

Foley went 3-for-3, including a run scored and an RBI, to lead USAO. Kauk (2-for-4) finished with two hits and a run scored.

USAO 9, Houston Baptist 1

Kauk and Askins each hit a home run in the first inning as the Drovers cruised to a 9-1 six inning win. The game was stopped in the sixth on the mercy rule. In between the home runs, Foley singled to give USAO three runs in three at-bats. Kauk's was her first career inside-the-park home run, while Askins belted a fast ball over the left centerfield fence.

Before the inning was over, Pendly, Cordes and Skelley each crossed the plate. Cordes scored Pendley on a single, while junior Crystal Judkins¹ single scored Cordes and Skelley. All nine Drovers batted in the inning. Pendley also had a double in the inning.

Judkins went 3-for-3, with three RBI and a run scored, to lead USAO. Kauk (2-for-3) and Foley (2-for-2) finished with two hits and a run scored each. Cordes led the Drovers with two runs scored and added an RBI

Askins allowed a run on four hits and struck out three in three innings to pick up the win and improve to 14-4 on the season. Pendley allowed a hit and struck out one in two innings of relief.

USAO 3, Oklahoma City 1

USAO scored a run in the bottom of the second and two in the bottom of the third to claim the 3-1 victory. In the second, Skelley opened the inning with a single and scored two batters later on a single by Judkins.

Askins led off the Drovers in the third with a single and stole second. Pendley drove in Askins on a single, and crossed the plate on an OCU error. The Stars added a run in the sixth to close with in two runs, and threatened another with a runner on third. But, Askins got out of the jam and retired three of four batters in the seventh.

Kauk (2-for-3) was the only Drover with two hits. Askins, Pendley, Skelley and Judkins each had a hit, while Askins finished with a game-high three stolen bases.

Pendley (17-2) allowed an unearned run on four hits and struck out one in five innings to pick up the win. Askins collected her sixth save of the season, allowing two hits and striking out one in two innings of relief.

Houston Baptist 4, USAO 0

Houston Baptist scored two runs in the bottom of the first and two more in the second for the 4-0 win. USAO managed just two hits and struck out 12 times in its first loss in more than a month. Askins and Skelley collected hits for the Drovers.

The game was suspended in the top of the fourth after heavy showers moved into the area on Thursday night. It was completed Friday afternoon.

Askins (13-4) allowed four runs on two hits in 1 2/3 innings. The left-hander struck out one and walked two. Sophomore Kindra Gregory allowed two hits and walked one in 1 1/3 inning of relief. Pendley struck out seven and allowed a hit in three innings.

USAO 4, Oklahoma City 0

Four straight doubles in the bottom of the third inning for the Drovers led to four runs and a 4-0 win to open the tournament. Kauk singled to lead things off and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Foley. Askins, senior Kristin Minton, Pendly and Skelley each doubled to score Kauk, Askins, junior Keeley McKinnon and Pendley.

Askins went 3-for-3 with an RBI and run scored to lead USAO. Askins (13-3) also picked up the win on the mound, allowing four hits in the complete game. The left-hander struck out five and didn¹t allow a walk.

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