ALABASTER — Wallace State softball’s pursuit of repeating as NJCAA Division I national champions came to a close Sunday. The Lady Lions left Alabaster for only the third time since 2003 without winning a state title after losing to Shelton State 9-1 in five innings at the Alabama Community College Conference (ACCC)/Region 22 Tournament.
Shelton State broke a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the fourth with three unearned runs and pulled away from there, scoring one more run in the fifth and four in the sixth to end Wallace State’s season.
Wallace State, which closed the season with a 44-26 record, was seeking its third state championship in a row and seventh in eight seasons. Instead, the youthful Lady Lions committed some costly errors both late Saturday night and Sunday, eventually denying them their ninth state title under coach Jayne Clem.
Top-seeded Wallace State opened the tournament with two impressive wins, beating Wallace-Dothan 13-4 on Friday and Central Alabama 9-3 on Saturday afternoon. The Lady Lions followed with a 7-4 loss to Southern Union in Saturday night's winner’s bracket game, allowing three unearned runs in the top of the seventh after the game was tied at 4-all.
Wallace State’s defensive miscues were too much to overcome against Shelton State as well.
Brooke Kinsey provided the lone run for Wallace State on Sunday, hitting a solo homer. Rachel Ragland was the losing pitcher for the Lady Lions.
Southern Union prevailed in the tournament championship against Shelton State, winning 3-2 to notch its 30th win in a row.
Despite its freshman-laden squad, Wallace State won its ninth consecutive ACCC North Division title this season and earned a top seed at the conference tournament.
Wallace State sophomores Kori Benson and Madeline Lee, both integral parts of last year’s national championship team, battled through injuries all season, yet still carried the offensive load as expected for the Lady Lions, both hitting well over .400. Benson, who set the single-season school record with 23 homers in 2013, finished the spring with 15 homers and 50 RBIs. Benson closed her splendid Wallace State career with a school-record 38 homers. Lee added 12 homers and 55 RBIs this season.
Freshman catcher Andrea McKenzie finished with eight homers and 66 RBIs, while Mackenzie Hill had eight homers and 37 RBIs.
On the mound, Ragland finished with a 19-10 record. Fellow freshman Amanda Medders was 17-12 with a 2.51 ERA.
Lee, Benson, Sabrina Russell, Ashleigh McClure and Annie Holcomb were sophomores on this season’s team.