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May 16, 2013

WALLACE STATE SOFTBALL: Lions knock off top-seeded Butler at NJCAA national tourney, advance to semifinal

ST GEORGE, Utah — Katie Gentle had another big afternoon at the plate with five RBIs, and Wallace State’s offense applied early pressure, scoring in all but two innings, as the Lady Lions knocked off top-seeded Butler (Kan.) CC 8-6 in a winner’s bracket game Thursday at the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division I national championship.

Wallace State, the tournament’s eighth seed, is three wins away from claiming its second national title. The Lady Lions advanced to play Pima (Ariz.) CC in Friday’s championship bracket semifinal at 3:30 p.m.

A day after collecting only two hits in an opening-round 2-1 victory, Wallace State (52-11) scored runs against a trio of Grizzly pitchers — and Gentle did damage against all three.

With the Lady Lions nursing a 1-0 lead in the third, Gentle clubbed a two-run homer to center field for a 3-1 advantage. She added a two-run single in the fourth and a sacrifice fly in the sixth, finishing 2 for 3 with five RBIs. The sophomore from Hartselle now has 16 homers and a team-high 71 RBIs this season.

“Katie had a bad tournament out here last year and said it wasn’t going to happen again. She’s made up her mind she’s going to have a strong tournament. (Cleanup hitter) Paige Rowland is struggling right now, so you’ve got to have players to pick each other up. Everyone is contributing, and it’s got to be a total team effort at this point in the season,” said Wallace State coach Jayne Clem, making her eighth national tournament appearance with the program. “Butler hasn’t been in a lot of pressure situations this season. I’m not going to say their competition is worse than ours, but it’s not who we play. They rely on the strikeout, so we wanted to force them to make plays. We knew good things were going to happen if we put the ball in play hard.”

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