LA VERNE, Calif. — When it rains, it pours.
Or so you would believe.
The La Verne softball team went down early in the do-or-die SCIAC Postseason Tournament championship game against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps before a thunderstorm forced a 62-minute weather delay.
But La Verne saw rainbow at the end as Rachel Ogata slashed a 2-run walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh inning to give the Leopards a 4-3 win and a berth to the NCAA National Championship tournament.
It is La Verne's third SCIAC Postseason Tournament championship and first since 2010.
"It feels incredible," La Verne coach Julie Smith said. "I honestly thought this year was going to be a rebuilding year after losing a great group of seniors last year but they did a tremendous job of getting us here. Our returners really built on that and they remembered the feeling we had last year when we fell just short."
After Katheryn Navarro made a loud out to deep center to lead off the bottom of the seventh, Shelby Tevis hit a sharp grounder up the middle that was stopped by a diving Reeve Grobecker but beat out the throw to start La Verne's rally. Carly Condon then put Tevis and herself in scoring position with a double to right and set the stage for Ogata.
Ogata fouled the first pitch she saw and took a ball before slicing one to shallow left. Claremont-Mudd-Scripps left fielder Rachel Perley was playing shallow and seemed to have a chance to snag the ball with a shoestring catch but the ball just eluded her and squirted by, allowing Condon to score the winning run easily from second.
WALK-OFF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/eDBNKO91oo— La Verne Leopards (@ULVAthletics) May 8, 2017
"Even with the deficit and the delay, our girls were focused," Smith said. "We all believed we could do it but it was getting scary towards the end. It was a magical moment that was meant for La Verne this year."
The Athenas struck early as Carly Roleder singled home Grobecker in the top of the first and put up two more runs on an Abigail Metsch double in the third inning.
The Leopards were kept quiet through the first four innings by CMS ace Anna Gurr but finally cracked her in the fifth inning. Tevis doubled with one out and Condon reached on an error, putting runners on the corners. Condon took second on an indifference play and Schiff cashed in both runners with a bloop single to left field that landed between three CMS fielders to bring the Leopards within 3-2.
Hayley Jaquess (12-5) was the unsung hero in the circle. The senior took over for starter Elisa Ponce before the fourth inning and tossed four no-hit innings to give the Leopards a chance to rally. She struck out two and allowed just one baserunner on a walk.
Gurr (16-8) took the loss after giving up four runs in 6 1/3 innings.
The Leopards will find out their regional draw tomorrow. The NCAA Division III Softball Selection Show will air at 10 a.m. PDT on NCAA.com.