Cal Lutheran knows what it’s like to travel a long distance for a short appearance.
The Regals made their first appearance in the NAIA softball tournament last season in Oklahoma City and were eliminated after two games. But Cal Lutheran ensured a return engagement to the nationals by sweeping a doubleheader from Mesa College of Grand Junction, Colo., 3-0 and 8-0, Friday in the bi-district playoffs at Cal Lutheran.
“We were somewhat in awe when we played in nationals last season,” said CLU Coach Wendy Olson-Beckemeyer, whose resignation as coach becomes effective after the national tournament. “We went with the attitude that we were going to compete and have a good time.
“This time we’re going to win.”
The ninth NAIA championship, a 16-team, double-elimination tournament, begins Wednesday in Midland, Mich.
The Regals will fly to the tournament, a mode of transportation Mesa should have considered this week. The Mavs drove vans 11 hours from Grand Junction to Las Vegas on Wednesday and spent an additional six hours on the road Thursday before arriving at Cal Lutheran at 5 p.m.
“I think next time we’ll show up a week earlier,” said Mesa Coach Sheila Jansen, whose team was the District 7 champion. “I won’t say we would have beaten them--Cal Lutheran is a much better team--but we weren’t prepared to play.
“Still, I’m proud of our team. No one expected us to get this far.”
Olson-Beckemeyer, on the other hand, had high aspirations for Cal Lutheran and has been talking about the nationals for a long time.
“Going back to nationals has been my goal,” Olson-Beckemeyer said. “This is it for me. Twenty years from now I want to look back and brag that I took my team there.
“I talked about nationals early in season when players weren’t ready to focus their attention on it. I applied too much pressure on the players and some asked me to cool it. I had to refer to it as the ‘N’ word.”
Junior DeeAndra Pilkington helped give Olson-Beckemeyer something to reminisce about Friday. She hit the first pitch from Katy Sands for a triple and scored the first run in a two-run first inning. Her run-scoring single in the second gave Cal Lutheran a 3-0 lead.
The junior right-hander also threw a four-hit shutout, her fifth shutout in six games and eighth of the season. Pilkington (18-4) struck out three, walked one and didn’t allow a runner past second base.
In the second game, Cal Lutheran had 10 hits and scored six unearned runs, four in the second inning. First baseman Teri Peppi hit a two-run single in the second and Leslie Stevens, batting fourth in the lineup, ended an 0-for-12 slump in the playoffs with a two-run triple in the sixth.
Stevens (12-5) also threw a two-hit shutout, striking out two. But she was more impressed with her lone hit than her pitching performance.
“Slumps drive me crazy,” Stevens said. “I don’t take them well.”