Lady Rams suffer setbacks in NCAA softball playoffs

Sophomore utility player Tiarra Delaney of the Lady Rams had two hits in three at-bats in the first game of the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional last Friday.

Lady Rams suffer setbacks in NCAA softball playoffs
May 12
08:00 2016

Photo by Craig T. Greenlee



When it comes to winning in the national playoffs, there is no margin for error. Nothing comes easy. At this level, if you make mistakes, your opponent will make you pay.

That’s a brief summation of what happened to Winston-Salem State in NCAA Division II Atlantic Region softball last week. The Lady Rams didn’t play badly in suffering shut-out losses to West Virginia Wesleyan (3-0) and Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania (6-0).

They just didn’t play well enough. WSSU, which finished the season at 30-23, delivered a comeback win (5-4 over Chowan) in the finals of the CIAA Tournament to earn its second trip to post-season play in three years. Even so, the make-up of this year’s squad is not quite the same as the team that advanced to the playoffs in 2014.

Mercedes Hargett and Chyna Riley are the only players who were on the WSSU roster three years ago. By comparison, their teammates are relative newcomers. But that’s good news because every player from this year’s team will be back for next season.

“This was a learning experience for a team that didn’t have any seniors,” said coach LaTaya Hilliard-Gray. “Now that they’ve gotten their feet wet, they have a much better understanding of what to expect (at the regionals).”

The chief issue for the Lady Rams in both games was their inability to put the ball in play and get runners on base. In two regional games, they had six hits and only eight runners reached base.

“We weren’t very consistent offensively or defensively and that really hurt us,” she said. “The energy, the fight, and the hunger to win, was not at the level it should have been. When you make it to regionals, you have to take your game up another notch.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that we have the skill to play with anybody. Everything came together for us at the CIAA Tournament. But a week later (at regionals), it didn’t happen. It was a case where we didn’t play up to the talent level that we have on this team.”

In the opening game against No. 1-seed West Virginia Wesleyan, the only WSSU batters to hit safely were Katherine Zimmer and Tiarra Delaney (both went 2-for-3). Defensively, a couple of fielding errors proved to be contributing factors in allowing Wesleyan to push runs across the plate.

Bloomsburg closed the curtains on the Lady Rams season with a four-run explosion in the third inning of the elimination game. WSSU was held to two hits by Bloomsburg pitcher Sarah Bortner, who finished with seven strike-outs and one walk.

Hargett, who went 2-for-3 at the plate, had a single and a double. The junior from Havelock got all of WSSU’s hits vs. Bloomburg.

The stinging feeling of losing in the post-season will more than likely linger among the Lady Rams to some degree. But at the same time, the memories from earning a playoff bid will serve as strong motivation to make a return trip and make amends for this year’s disappointment.

“Winning and playing at the highest level possible does not stop with the CIAA Tournament,” said Gray. “That’s the message I shared with the team after our last regional game. The main goal is to make it back to post-season and prove that we can win at the national level. It’s not enough to get to regionals. The focus is to get past the first round and make a strong run that will take this team deep in the playoffs.”

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Craig Greenlee

Craig Greenlee

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