For the first time since 2016, the Western Nebraska Community College softball team captured the Region IX Tournament championship with a dominating 14-5 win over McCook Community College in the title game on Saturday afternoon at Volunteer Field in Scottsbluff.
The Cougars won all three of their tournament games. WNCC beat McCook in the first round and Trinidad State Junior College on Friday before knocking off McCook again in the final.
“Honestly, it is indescribable because we worked so hard for this,” WNCC sophomore Michaela Kelly said. “It is awesome to be part of this and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”
Bri George, who had a first-inning home run in the championship game, said the title means so much for the team.
“It means the world to us. We have been working for this all year long,” the Cougar catcher said. “We definitely have been through a lot together and the bad has helped us. Through all our difficulties, our one main goal has been together we go. That really has helped us to overcome the challenges that we had to overcome and get where we are at. We are really excited to be here.”
The win was the Cougars 12th straight, pushing their season record to 35-18. Next up for WNCC is a district tournament matchup with Butler Community College. WNCC will host the best-of-three series next week. The winner of the district will advance to the national tournament in St. George, Utah.
WNCC head coach Katelyn Groves couldn’t have been more appreciative of the softball fans that braved the chilly conditions Saturday to watch the Cougars win a championship.
“I can’t say enough about the people in the community and our fans,” Groves said. “I don’t have words in mind. I hope people know how important it is to us for them to show up and we are thankful that they were here and it is a blessing for sure.”
As the focus now shifts to the district round, Groves said they won’t do anything different.
“Our approach will be like any other game,” she said. “It will be Western Nebraska softball so we can prepare ourselves the best we can to play our best softball. That has been our approach all year and it will be us just doing our thing and doing it correctly.”
In the championship game, the Cougars scored in five of the six innings.
WNCC took control of the game early by plating three runs in the first. Mickie Mills led off with a solo home run and then George followed with a two-run shot for the 3-0 lead.
McCook scored one in the second, but the Cougars answered back with six runs to take a commanding 9-1 lead. The third inning saw Mills hit a liner that a diving McCook rightfielder couldn’t come up with and the WNCC freshman rounded all four bases for the inside-the-park homer.
WNCC added another run in the fourth as Sam Davis scored on a Tylar Davis bunt, which was thrown into right field.
WNCC put the game away with four in the fifth and five in the sixth. The big hits were run-scoring doubles by Kelly and Hannah George, and a run-scoring single by Emma Glawson.
Kelly and Hannah Baesler each had run-scoring doubles in the sixth, while Glawson knocked in two with a single.
WNCC finished with 14 hits in the contest. George led the way with four hits. She finished with a home run, three RBIs, and two runs scored. Kelly had three hits with two doubles, three runs scored and two RBIs, while Mills ended with two hits. She drove in two and scored three runs.
Emma McMillan picked up her third win of the tournament in the circle. She allowed five runs on seven hits and struck out two in seven innings of work.
WNCC had several players honored on the all-region team. Mills was named the Region IX Freshman of the Year and Groves was the Region IX Coach of the Year. Earning all-region honors were McMillan as a pitcher, George as a catcher, Mills and Kelly as infielders, and Glawson as an outfielder.
McCook 010 003 1 – 5 7 2
WNCC 301 145 x – 14 14 1
WP – Emma McMillan; LP – Shae Muggridge.
2B – WNCC (Bri George 2, Michaela Kelly 2, Hannah Baesler, Emma Glawson); McCook (Sydney McArthur, Chanel Siebenthal).
HR – WNCC (Mickie Mills 2, Bri George); McCook (Isabel Serna).
McCook 020 201 0 – 5 9 0
Trinidad 030 000 0 – 3 7 2
WP – Shae Muggridge; LP – Teddi Garcia.
2B – McCook (Sarah Willier); Trinidad (Megan Reidhead, Rachel McKinley).
3B – Trinidad (Jelaeni Kapanui).