ST. GEORGE, UT -- A five-run first inning and five shutout innings from sophomore pitcher Kaci Federwisch lifted the sixth-ranked Blinn College softball team to a 9-0 mercy-rule victory over Gordon (Ga.) College in the first round of the NJCAA National Softball Championships here Thursday afternoon.
The victory sends Blinn, the tournament’s No. 3 seed, to the winner’s bracket, where it will face Northeastern Oklahoma A&M at 8 p.m. CST. NEO defeated Crowder (Mo.) College 6-1 this afternoon.
“Getting the first win is crucial because coming through the loser’s bracket is a chore,” Blinn (50-8) coach Rick Church said. “We usually struggle in our first game at nationals and have to fight our way through it, but hopefully this game gives us some momentum.”
The Buccaneers didn’t waste any time in putting runs on the board. Leadoff hitter Leandra Maly started the inning with a walk, then scored on a double by Tiffani McKnight. Freshman second baseman Thomasina Garza followed with a two-run home run that made it 3-0.
“It felt good coming off the bat,” Garza said. “As soon as it came off the bat, I knew it was going out.”
“Tommy always has that potential,” Church said. “She got the barrel on that pitch and I don’t think there was any doubt that ball was going out.”
The Bucs would score two more first-inning runs off Gordon errors before center fielder Michelle Svehla and catcher Brittney Krchnak each had RBI singles in the second.
In the fourth, Svehla and left fielder Ryann Jones each hit RBI doubles to make it 9-0. The game ended via mercy rule in the fifth.
“We didn’t let up,” said Garza.
The offense provided more than enough support for Federwisch, who struck out six batters in five innings. Gordon managed just four hits.
“My rise ball was working for the first game all season, so that was a good thing,” said Federwisch, a University of Texas-San Antonio signee who was named the 2012 Region XIV Player of the Year. “There’s no reason to be nervous after your team scores five runs in the first inning. It takes a lot of stress off.”
Svehla and Jones led the Buccaneers with two hits apiece.
Sophomore pitcher Jocelyn Tacquard will start for the Buccaneers against NEO. The Norsemen are seeded sixth in the tournament.