By Nicholas Huenefeld/Owens Sports Information
Normal, ILL---The Express capped a school-record season with a 10-0 loss to No. 1-ranked LSU-Eunice in the NJCAA Division II National Championship on Saturday.
It was the first time in Owens athletic history that a women's team made a national championship game and the fourth appearance overall for an Owens sports team in a national title game.
The eighth-ranked Express (44-5 overall) entered Saturday in the loser's bracket semifinal and defeated No. 9-ranked South Mountain (Ariz.) Community College, 8-7 in nine innings. Then, the offense exploded in the loser's bracket final against No. 2-ranked Kankakee (Ill.) Community College with a 13-2 five inning win to reach the championship.
With their win over Kankakee, the Express achieved their 44th win, which tied the 2004-05 team for most victories in a season. The 2004-05 team finished fifth at the national tournament with a 44-12 overall record.
In addition, the win over Kankakee marked the program's 400th. The program began in 1997-98 as a club sport. The following year they became an official NJCAA sport and have accumulated a 400-91-1 record since then.
In the game against Kankakee, Kristen Roznoski (Cardinal Stritch/Toledo, Ohio) broke the school record for most hits in one season with her 81st hit. Earlier in the tournament, she broke the single season run record.
The Express opened the tournament with a 7-2 win over Mineral Area College on Thursday. Following that, they defeated No. 6 Heartland Community College 4-3 on Thursday before falling to LSU-Eunice 6-0 in the winner's bracket semifinal on Friday.
Following their first loss, Owens defeated East Central (Miss.) Community College 2-0 on Friday to reach Saturday's action. They finished the tournament with a 5-2 record.
Elizabeth Weber (Oak Harbor/Oak Harbor, Ohio) picked up the win in relief against South Mountain, while Ashlyn Michalak (Springfield/Temperance, Mich.) notched the win against Kankakee. Weber took the loss in the championship game against LSU-Eunice.
In the tournament, Owens went 3-2 against top 10 teams with the only two losses coming at the hands of the national champion LSU-Eunice, 6-0 and 10-0. Those games were the only two times the Express were shut out this season.
The three top 10 wins came against No. 2 Kankakee, No. 6 Heartland and No. 9 South Mountain.
Two Express players, Lindsey Bandeen (Springfield/Holland, Ohio) and Matea Rice (Clay/Oregon, Ohio) made the NJCAA Division II National Tournament All-Tournament Team. Bandeen hit a two-run triple that gave Owens the lead for good against Heartland, and she had a two-run double against Kankakee that opened the scoring. Rice hit a three-run homer against Kankakee that put Owens up 8-2, and she went 3-for-3 against East Central.