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Lady Cavs eliminated from national tourney

Darton finishes 1-2 at NJCAA national tournament

ST. GEORGE, Utah -- After keeping its season alive with a close victory against Butler (Kan.) Community College, the Darton State softball team was eliminated from the NJCAA national tournament late Thursday by Odessa College.

The Lady Cavs (46-12), who ended the regular season with 19 straight wins, went 1-2 in the double-elimination tournament and were one of eight teams eliminated Thursday after their 8-0, five-inning loss to Odessa.

The loss was the first time all season the Lady Cavs were held scoreless, while Odessa will play another elimination game at 3:30 p.m. today against Spartanburg (Mo.) Methodist College.

DARTON 6, BUTLER 5: All eyes were on Darton pitcher Tiffany Bishop in the closing moments of the elimination game against Butler Community College.

The freshman from Valdosta didn’t disappoint.

With the tying run on third and the winning run on second, Bishop got Butler second baseman Jillian Navarrete to harmlessly fly out, ending the Lady Grizzlies’ threat and momentarily saving Darton’s season.

The victory against Butler was the first of eight elimination games the Lady Cavs would have needed to win to capture the program’s first national championship.

It got tense late when Butler opened the bottom of the seventh inning with three straight singles. The third by Sydnee Eck drove in a run to cut Darton’s lead to 6-5. Bishop, who threw all seven innings and allowed 10 hits, struck out the next batter for the inning’s first out and then got Monica Islava to ground into a fielder’s choice for the second out.

Butler’s Ashton Atwell then drew a walk to load the bases and put the tying run 60 feet away. But that was as close as the Lady Grizzlies would get with Navarrete flying out on the next at-bat.

Darton struck first in the game with an Emily Church home run in the first inning, but Butler responded and took a 3-1 lead in the third inning thanks to a Kate James RBI double in the first and a James two-run homer in the third.

However, the Lady Cavs retook the lead for good with a four-run fourth inning that was highlighted by a solo home run from Bree Wells and a two-run homer from Jostlyn Higgerson, who also drove in a run in the sixth with a two-out single.