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SOFTBALL
Record: 0-0 Home: 0-0 Away: 0-0 HAAC: 0-0
 
Softball - Sat, May 6, 2017
The Eagles pose with their 2017 Heart Tournament Championship Trophy on Saturday in St. Joseph, Mo. (Photo Credit: Lori Thoma
The Eagles pose with their 2017 Heart Tournament Championship Trophy on Saturday in St. Joseph, Mo. (Photo Credit: Lori Thoma

St. Joseph, MO - The Eagles did the improbable on Saturday, winning three games in one day to win the Heart Softball Tournament Championship at Bill McKinney Heritage Park in St. Joseph, Mo.

The Eagles (36-22, 5-1 in Tournament) earned 7-6 victory in nine innings over the MidAmerica Nazarene Pioneers (30-21, 3-2 in Tournament) to make it to the championship round, and then picked up a 3-1 victory over Evangel to force a deciding game two against the Crusaders, with the winner earning the automatic bid to the NAIA Softball World Series Opening Round. In the winner-take-all game, the Eagles scratched out a 1-0 victory over the Crusaders (31-22, 3-2 in Tournament) in nine innings to earn the bid, picking up their program-record 36th victory of the season in the process.

It was Avila's third straight trip to the Heart Tournament Championship round, and they have now won two of the last three overall. The Eagles also have 12 tournament wins in the last three seasons after having none since the team joined the Heart back in the year 2000.

Kayleigh Behymer picked up victories in all three games for the Eagles, pushing her 22 on the season, extending her own single-season program record. Behymer also set the program record for career victories in Saturday's championship game against Evangel, picking up win number 34, passing former Eagle Tori Aziere, who finished her career with 33 wins.

Behymer was nails for the Eagles on Saturday, tossing 20.1 innings over the three games, including a win in relief over MidAmerica Nazarene and a pair of complete game victories against Evangel to help the Eagles to their second NAIA Softball World Series Opening Round appearance in three season.

Senior Sam Castoldi drove in Avila's lone run in the championship game, knocking home fellow senior Mackenzie Pritchett in the top of the ninth inning to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead. The run was Avila's first of the season against Evangel's Kyra Parker, who had shut the Eagles out over 26.1 innings this season prior to their ninth inning run.

Box Score: MidAmerica Nazarene - 6 vs. Avila - 7 (9 innings) - Heart Semifinal Round

Team123456789 RHE
MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.)000041001 6103
Avila (Mo.)030002002 7123

The Eagles came from behind twice to pick up a 7-6, walk-off victory over the MidAmerica Nazarene Pioneers on Saturday to advance to the Heart Softball Tournament Championship round against the Evangel Crusaders. After Sam Castoldi tied the game with a perfectly executed squeeze play, scoring Kaycee Dexter, Kayleigh Behymer singled home Hayden Roberts for the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning.

The Eagles led the game 3-0 after two innings, but a 4-run fifth inning by the Pioneers, followed by another run in the sixth put them down by two with just six outs left. In typical Avila Softball fashion, the Eagles rallied in the bottom of the sixth to tie the game, getting back-to-back singles from Behymer and Mackenzie Pritchett to lead off the inning. After a passed ball allowed both runners to move up, senior Samantha Dexter came through with a clutch one-out single to drive home both runners, tying the game at 5.

The score remained tied at five until the top of the ninth inning when the Pioneers got an RBI double from Shelby Frans to take a 6-5 lead, but it would not hold as the Eagles plated a pair of runs in the bottom of the ninth to earn the victory. Kaycee Dexter led off the inning with a single, and then Hayden Roberts doubled down the right field line to put the tying and winning runs in scoring position. Sam Castoldi laid down a perfect suicide squeeze bunt to score Dexter, and then the hero of the day Kayleigh Behymer gave the Eagles the win with a walk-off single to shallow left, just beyond the reach of the shortstop.

Mackenzie Pritchett, McKnezie Sokoloski, Kaycee Dexter and Kayleigh Behymer each had two hits in the victory, with Samantha Dexter leading the team with 3 RBIs.

Avila got the scoring started in the bottom of the second inning, getting RBIs from Madison Mueth, Abby King and S. Dexter. Mueth's RBI gave her 95 in her career, which is the most by any Eagle in the DakStats Era, dating back to 2006.

Abby King started the game in the circle for the Eagles, giving up 4 runs (3 ER) over 4.2 innings. Those numbers may not sound that impressive, but the junior nearly got through five innings with a massive blister on the middle finger of her throwing hand. The blister popper prior to Saturday's game with the Pioneers, but King battled through it before giving way to Behymer in the fifth.

Behymer pitched the final 4.1 innings to pick up the victory, surrendering 2 runs (1 ER) while striking out one.

Box Score: Avila - 3 vs. Evangel - 1 (Heart Championship, Rd. 1)

Team1234567 RHE
Avila (Mo.)0000102 331
Evangel (Mo.)1000000 141

Kayleigh Behymer was nearly untouchable and Abby King was her usual clutch self as the Eagles defeated the Evangel Crusaders in Saturday's first championship game, forcing a winner-take-all matchup.

Behymer tossed a complete game, giving up just one run and scattering four hits to pick up her 21st victory of the season, and King drove in all three runs for the Eagles, including a game-tying sacrifice fly in the fifth inning and a go-ahead two-run single with two outs in the top of the seventh inning.

Evangel opened the scoring with a run in the first inning, but that was all they would get off of Behymer in the game. The Crusaders scored a run on two hits and also drew a walk in the inning, but mustered just two base runners over the final six frames off of the Avila starter.

The score remained 1-0 until the top of the fifth inning. Megan Manestar led off the frame with a double, and was replaced on the bases by freshman speedster Gabby Walton. Walton advanced to third base on a sacrifice bunt by Behymer, and then scored on a sacrifice fly from King to tie the game at one apiece.

That score held up until the top of the seventh when the Eagles took their first lead of the game on King's 2-run single. The inning started with Kaycee Dexter reaching on an Evangel error, and then she moved up to second on a sacrifice bunt from Hayden Roberts. After a Manestar walk, Behymer lined out to left for the second out, setting up King for her late inning heroics. With King at the plate, Dexter and Roberts executed a double steal to put runners at second and third. King then laced a single between the third baseman and shortstop, bringing home both runners to give the Eagles a 3-1 lead.

The two runs were more than enough for Behymer as she shut down the Crusaders in the bottom of the seventh to force a winner-take-all game two with Evangel for the Heart Championship.

Box Score: Avila - 1 vs. Evangel - 0 (9 Innings) - Heart Championship Game

Team123456789 RHE
Avila (Mo.)000000001 140
Evangel (Mo.)000000000 052

Kayleigh Behymer was brilliant once again as she shut out the Evangel Crusaders over nine innings to help the Eagles to their second Heart Postseason Tournament Championship victory in three seasons. Behymer scattered five hits and struck out four while walking just one in the victory, throwing just 96 pitches over nine innings.

It was an old fashioned pitcher's duel as Behymer went toe-to-toe with Evangel's Kyra Parker in the championship game, with both pitchers showcasing their talents for the crowd. The two pitchers combined to give up just nine hits over 18 innings, with Behymer striking out four and Parker sitting down three in the game. The only run in the game came in the top of the ninth inning when Avila's Sam Castoldi drove home Mackenzie Pritchett with an RBI groundout, and that run was unearned.

If you were a fan of pitching and defense, Saturday's Heart Tournament Championship game was right down your alley. Both teams got brilliant pitching performances, and both teams got spectacular plays from their defense throughout the game.

Avila's Megan Manestar made a nice catch on a line drive to end an Evangel threat in the bottom of the fourth inning, and then made a leaping catch on a line drive with a runner at third to end the fifth. The Eagles also got big defensive plays from Mackenzie Pritchett, Kaycee Dexter, Abby King and Sam Castoldi in the game. Dexter made a circus catch in the third, covering about 70 feet before laying out to make a diving catch in shallow right-center for the second out. Behymer got in on the act for the final out of the third, catching a comebacker that was headed for center field.

The two teams traded zeros through the first eight innings before the Eagles finally broke through with the game's only run in the top of the ninth. Mackenzie Pritchett led off the inning with a single to left, and advanced third after the ball got by Evangel's Megan Washam and rolled to the fence. The Eagles did not wait long to capitalize as Sam Castoldi hit a ground ball to the second baseman that was slow enough to score Pritchett from third. The run was Avila's first and only run off of Evangel's Kyra Parker this season.

Behymer would get more help from her defense in the bottom of the ninth. After Evangel's Washam drew a leadoff walk, Manestar made a nice stop in the hole and threw a dart to Pritchett at second base to get the lead runner on a fielder's choice for the first out. Behymer would get the final two outs herself as she induced a pair of comebackers as the Eagles finished off a perfect 3-0 day to win the Heart Tournament Championship and the final bid to the NAIA Softball World Series Opening Round.

The nine inning shutout was the first of Behymer's career, and it set a record for longest shutout victory in Avila history.

The Eagles will learn their fate in the NAIA Softball World Series Opening Round on Wednesday when the NAIA announces the tournament field. It will be the second appearance for the Eagles in the last three seasons after the program had never advanced into the NAIA National Tournament prior to 2015.

Stay tuned to www.avilaathletics.com for updates on the tournament.