By Sydney Leibfritz
For the first time since 2005, Sewanee Softball has emerged victorious against a conference rival. In their series on March 9, the Tigers earned their first conference win and second overall win of the season against the Centre College Colonels with a final score of 5-4.
Centre was the last team the softball program defeated before the conference losing streak, showing the full circle the team has come.
“I’m just so glad the girls got to experience this victory, and seeing all their hard work pay off, that’s the best part,” Head Coach Merritt Yackey said with a smile as the girls ran around to congratulate each other, their excited cheers echoing across the field.
The Tigers faced a tough loss in the first game of the series, losing 15-5 despite a mostly close game and a four-run rally in the bottom of the sixth. However, after a short break to breathe and regroup, the girls took the field in the evening’s second game prepared to fight back and split the games.
After shutting out the Colonels at the top of the first, lead off batter and pitcher Jackie O’Reilly (C’21) rounded the bases with help from Miranda Townsend’s (C’19) sacrifice bunt and Rachel Dement’s (C’19) line drive, placing them at an early 1-0 lead.
Centre bounced back in the second inning, earning three runs between line-drives and doubles. However, the Tigers pushed through the defensive struggles and claimed three runs of their own. Katie Roth (C’19) sent Katie Bender (C’20) home with an RBI, immediately followed by a home run by O’Reilly that brought Roth and Charlsey Shirey (C’19) across the plate.
In the fourth inning, Centre earned one run, evening the score to 4-4, and with no runs from Sewanee, both teams tightened their defense and struggled to score.
After a four-inning shutdown and the bottom of the seventh inning beginning, Sewanee poured all of their energy into their offense, desperate to get one last point on the board. O’Reilly led off, starting the Tigers’ momentum with a single. After another sacrifice by Townsend, Dement singled and Caroline Sweetin (C’20) walked, loading the bases.
As catcher Taylor Wagner (C’20) approached the plate, one could cut the tension in the air with a knife. With two strikes against her, Wagner managed to place her hit directly between the shortstop and second base, allowing O’Reilly to cross the plate and securing a win for the Tigers.
The “terrific twelve,” as Amanda Watters (C’18) dubbed Sewanee’s team, immediately leapt into celebration at the 12-year conference streak finally being shattered. When asked how the final moments of the game felt, Townsend said, “I was holding my breath the entire last inning. I was just thinking ‘get a run, just get a run,’ and then crossed the plate, and it all just melted away.”
Although the series ultimately fell to Centre, this win signifies a shift in Sewanee softball and testifies how far this team has come over the past few years through its complete reconstruction and transformation under Yackey and Assistant Coach Michelle Thibodeaux (C’14).
The players have noted the differences even just in this past year alone. “With a lot of practice and a lot of games under our belt, I think we finally just played as a team,” O’Reilly stated.
As the team travels to Florida for a spring break filled with games against such teams as Oberlin, Wesleyan, and Carleton, each holds higher hopes not only concerning her own abilities but also about the team’s ability to prevail overall.