Special to The Times
The Cullman Times
The last time Wallace State’s softball team had a pair of 20-game winners, the program won the 2008 NJCAA Division I national championship.
The Lady Lions are still a few wins away from competing for another national title, but they do possess a pair of 20-game winners and a potent offense going into the Alabama Community College Conference (ACCC)/Region 22 Tournament, which starts today at Veteran’s Park in Alabaster.
Wallace State, one of three top seeds, once again has a first-round bye and plays the Enterprise State-L.B.W. winner today at noon. The 17th-ranked Lady Lions, winners of 15 of18, are seeking the program’s second straight title, sixth in seven years, and eighth overall.
“We’ve struggled at times this season letting outside influences affect the way we play, but if we are focused and do our job, we’ll be fine,” said Wallace State coach Jayne Clem, who surpassed the 700-career win plateau last month. “We’ve had three good days of practice this week. Everyone seems to be focused, and the pitchers are ready to throw. It’s going to be a matter of hitting the field and doing what we know we can do.”
Wallace State right-handers Lindsey DeFee and BreeAnna Blevins have shared the load on the mound and maintained nearly identical stats. DeFee is 22-5 with a 1.39 ERA, throwing 18 complete games and four shutouts. Blevins has compiled a 21-5 record with a 1.56 ERA. The Alexandria native has tossed 23 complete games, 10 shutouts and has recorded 206 strikeouts in 161 2/3 innings.
“Those two have given us a chance to win every game,” Clem said. “If they continue to do their job and keep us in the game, we’ll have a great chance to win another title.”
Jennifer Sexton and Holli Hill, members of the 2008 national championship team, were the last set of Wallace State teammates to each win 20-plus games in the same season.
Wallace State’s offense has set new marks as well.
Freshman third baseman Kori Benson set the program’s single-season home run record on April 26 after blasting a pair of homers against Alabama Southern in the regular-season finale. Benson’s 17 bombs exceed the previous record (16) held by Stephanie Robbins since 1999.
Wallace State (46-11) has clubbed 56 homers as a group, including Katie Gentle’s 12, Paige Rowland’s nine and Madeline Lee’s eight.
Gentle, who earned back-to-back NJCAA Player of the Week honors earlier this season, also has a team-high .480 average and 26 stolen bases. Designated hitter/catcher Maria Mitchell is hitting .325 with six homers and 25 RBIs, and leadoff hitter Victoria Frith is hitting .327 with 19 stolen bases.
“Each person in our lineup has the capability of coming through with a clutch hit. It’s just a matter of us stepping up and delivering,” said Clem, whose team won its eighth straight ACCC North Division title this season. “They’ve got to stay focused with each at bat during this tournament.”
The three-day tournament concludes Sunday with the championship game set for 1 p.m. The winner will advance to the NJCAA Division I softball championship at St. George, Utah from May 15-18.