NewsMVNU Softball Team Finishes Strong in 2004
written by Dave Parsons, Sports Information Director
MOUNT VERNON, Ohio - Coming into the 2004 season, the Mount Vernon Nazarene University women’s fastpitch softball team set goals for itself to have a winning record, win the National Christian College Athletic Association East Region Tournament and earn a trip to the NCCAA National Tournament, and qualify for the American Mideast Conference Tournament.
The Lady Cougars accomplished each of its goals as MVNU finished the season with a 23-17 overall record, won the NCCAA East Region Tournament and finished fifth at the NCCAA National Tournament, and qualified for the AMC Tournament for the second straight year.
The team began the season with its annual spring trip to Orlando, Florida, where the Lady Cougars played 10 games against NCAA Division III teams. MVNU posted a 4-6 record on its trip that included games against several nationally ranked teams.
After winning their first three games back in Ohio, the Lady Cougars dropped their next five games to stand at 7-11 overall.
At that point, MVNU won 16 of its next 20 games as the team used the late-season surge to finish 8-6 in the AMC South Division and earn the fourth seed in the AMC Tournament. The Lady Cougars, who at one point ran off eight straight wins, also swept Malone College in the NCCAA East Region Tournament and finished fifth out of 10-teams at the NCCAA National Tournament.
Needing two wins in its final two games of the regular season against Urbana University, MVNU rallied for five runs in its final two at bats in the first game for a 5-4 victory and then blanked the Blue Knights 7-0 in the second game to sweep the AMC South Division doubleheader and earn a spot in the AMC Tournament.
Despite losing two straight games to AMC North Division champion Tiffin University to end their season in the AMC Tournament best-of-three series, the Lady Cougars had put together another successful campaign.
"We set some good goals for ourselves prior to the year and then worked hard to reach them,” said MVNU head coach Jeana Howald, who was named NCCAA East Region Coach of the Year. "The players really came together towards the end of the season and we were able to finish strong.”
Individually, three seniors wrapped up their careers by playing key roles for the Lady Cougars. Second baseman Tiffany Simpson, who was named to the AMC South Division Second Team and NCCAA East Region Team, batted .289 with two doubles, four triples, 11 RBI, and 20 runs scored in her final season. First baseman Angie Smith, who earned NCCAA East Region Honorable Mention status and was named to the NCCAA All-National Tournament Team, batted .290 with three doubles, one triple, six runs scored, and 22 RBI, while third baseman Sara Schwartz batted .250 with one double, one triple, one home run, 11 RBI, and 12 runs scored.
Freshman Laura Kot, an outfielder, led MVNU with a .439 batting average as she was named the AMC South Division Freshman of the Year and selected to the NCCAA All-American First Team. She was also named to the AMC South Division Second Team and the NCCAA East Region Team after recording three doubles, four triples, nine RBI, and 25 runs scored despite playing with a stress fracture in her foot for most of the season.
Sophomore shortstop Stephanie Johnson batted .359 with a team-best 14 doubles, five triples, two home runs, 29 runs scored, and 34 RBI as she was named to the AMC South Division Second Team, the NCCAA East Region Team, and the NCCAA Honorable Mention All-American Team.
Sophomore right-handed pitcher Heather Clark was also named to the AMC South Division Second Team and the NCCAA East Region Team as she posted a 13-9 record on the mound with a 1.80 earned run average. She struck out a team-high 84 batters in 155 2/3 innings.
Junior catcher Shara Dyer batted .248 with 10 doubles and 22 RBI. She also threw out 14 of the 41 runners who tried to steal on her as she was named to the AMC South Division Second Team and NCCAA East Region Honorable Mention.
Junior outfielder Jackie Shively batted .264 and led the team with 12 stolen bases, while junior Brittany Stroop hit .213 with five doubles. Junior right-handed pitcher Shannon Rachel posted a 10-8 record on the mound with a 3.24 ERA, and sophomores Megan Kunkle and Ashley Reeves also saw action in 19 and 24 games respectively.
Freshman outfielder Danielle Herbert batted .314 in her first collegiate season with nine doubles, two triples, two home runs, 18 RBI, and 19 runs scored as she was named to the NCCAA East Region Team. Freshman Enid Tidyman (.294), Jennifer Meade (.231), Jennifer Osborne (.182), and Melody Blimline (.180) also contributed in their first seasons.
With only three players graduating, MVNU will look to continue its success when the 2005 season rolls around.