PLANT CITY, Fla. - Northeastern A&M Lady Norse head coach Eric Iverson found a little solace in the fact that North Idaho College advanced to the championship game of the NJCAA Division I fast-pitch softball tournament.
After tossing a 4-0 no-hitter at the Lady Norse Saturday morning in the loser's bracket semifinals, the eighth-seeded North Idaho Lady Cardinals eliminated second-seeded Eastern Arizona 5-4 in the loser's bracket finals.
“It wasn't that our girls didn't play hard against North Idaho,” Iverson said. “But, they expended so much emotion and energy in winning three games on Friday that they didn't have anything left in their tank Saturday.
“Besides, North Idaho's pitcher (Kelcey) Caven did a great job of locating her pitches,” Iverson said. “When we did make contact, we hit it right at somebody.
“This was one of those situations where everything went right for North Idaho and nothing went right for us,” Iverson said. “After all, the beat us and turned around and eliminated the No. 2 seed which was quite a fete.”
Squaring off against top-seeded Chipola, Fla., in the championship game, North Idaho battled to a 3-3 tie through seven innings.
Chipola, of Marianna, Fla., scored three runs in the eighth inning to gain a 6-3 victory for the NJCAA national championship.
“North Idaho ran into our luck against Chipola,” Iverson said. “They had the bases loaded and no outs in the top of the seventh inning, but could not score.”
Chipola finished the season with a 57-5 overall record while North Idaho posted a 47-27 season mark. Eastern Arizona finished third with a 48-12 record and the Lady Norse compiled a 54-7 record.
“I was extremely proud of what these girls accomplished,” Iverson said. “We came into the tournament at the 6th seed and left in fourth place. That's a very good improvement and gives us something to build on for next year.”
Lady Norse sophomore pitcher Candace Handley, of Broken Arrow, represented NEO on the all-tournament team. Handley pitched in all six tournament games, allowed six earned runs in 36.2 innings for a 1.16 earned run average with 47 strikeouts and 15 walks.