COLUMBIA — The William Woods softball team has clinched a spot in the NAIA National Championships for the first time since 2014.
The Lady Owls defeated the Williams Baptist Lady Eagles 8-2 on Friday at Antimi Softball Complex, winning their pool in the American Midwest Conference Tournament. The win advanced William Woods to the best-of-3 championship series.
Columbia College, which won the other pool, had already clinched a spot in the NAIA Tournament by winning the AMC regular-season title. As a result, William Woods was guaranteed the conference's other automatic bid to the national championships.
Columbia College swept William Woods in Saturday's championship series, winning 12-1 in five innings in Game 1 and 8-4 in Game 2.
William Woods will enter the NAIA Tournament with a 23-25 record, while Columbia College — ranked No. 23 in the NAIA — improved to 35-10 after going 5-0 in the conference tournament.
In Friday's game against Williams Baptist, the Lady Owls put the game away with five runs in the top of the seventh inning.
William Woods, ahead 3-2 after six innings, extended their lead in the seventh when Emma Walker singled to left field, scoring Anna Counts. Ari Arnold also scored on the play, making the score 5-2.
Later in the inning, Alli Massey's sacrifice fly scored Walker, while Lindy Wilson's double scored both Emily Robinett and Celeste Sermeno to cap the five-run inning.
Walker's single in the third inning scored Williams Woods' first two runs. The Lady Owls added another run in the fourth when Counts drew a bases-loaded walk, making the score 3-1.
Brittany Roady picked up the complete-game win for the Lady Owls. In seven innings, she gave up two runs (one earned) on nine hits and walked one.
Counts and Walker each had a pair of singles for William Woods, which finished with eight hits. Wilson and Robinett each had one double.
In the championship opener, Columbia College pitcher Lexi Dickerson held the Lady Owls to one hit, striking out five batters in five innings.
Massey had the one hit, a two-out single in the top of the first that scored Counts to put William Woods ahead 1-0.
Columbia College scored two runs in the bottom of the first and 10 more runs in the third to win by run-rule.
Roady took the loss for the Lady Owls, allowing seven runs on eight hits in 2 innings. She walked three and struck out two.
In Game 2, each team scored two runs in the first inning, but the Cougars scored three runs in the top of the second and led the rest of the game.
Walker hit an RBI double in the first and later scored on an error to tie the game at 2.
William Woods scored its other two runs in the bottom of the third. Arnold hit a double to right-center field, scoring Counts, then scored on Walker's triple, also to right-center. That closed Columbia College's lead to 5-4.
Counts, Arnold and Walker each had two hits. Arnold added a single and Counts hit a pair of singles in the loss.
Madison Ausfahl — a North Callaway graduate — took the loss in the pitcher's circle for the Lady Owls. In seven innings, she allowed eight runs (seven earned) on 13 hits with six walks and two strikeouts.
William Woods will be one of 40 teams in the NAIA National Championships, which begins with the Opening Round on May 13. The Lady Owls will learn their Opening Round destination when the tournament is revealed online on the Play NAIA Facebook page at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Ten Opening Round sites will feature four teams each. The winner of each Opening Round will advance to the NAIA World Series, which begins May 23 at Killian Sports Complex in Springfield.