COLUMBIA — The atmosphere was intense for the Columbia College softball team during its doubleheader with Williams Baptist College on Wednesday.
The two teams entered the game with identical 10-2 conference records and were playing for first in the American Midwest Conference. They split the two games, creating a three-way tie with William Woods University for first in the conference.
The Cougars took the first game by a score of 3-2. They led 2-0 until the fifth inning. Senior first baseman Rachel Brawner made a rare error to start the inning, followed by a single and a double for Williams Baptist to make the score 2-1. The Eagles would score another one to tie the game.
The Cougars answered in the bottom of the inning with a leadoff single by second basemen Tori Long. Rachel Brawner made up for her error in the top of the inning by singling up the middle to plate Long, which gave the Cougars the lead for good.
Rachel Brawner was playing her final home game as a Cougar and said it was the best kind of ending she could imagine.
“It felt good because I’ve given four years to this organization,” Rachel Brawner said. “It felt good to actually do something and make a contribution to my last game here.”
The game ended in dramatic fashion when pitcher Kacey Rehagen threw a wild pitch that got past catcher Ashley Farmer. The tying run was on third and charged towards home. Farmer fired a perfect strike to Rehagen, who tagged the runner out with time to spare.
“We were confident that we were going to win,” Rehagen said. “It was meant to be. Farmer had a great shot at home and I tagged her out at home.”
Pitcher Meghan Bailey was slated to pitch the second game but said her body wasn’t feeling up to it. With injuries to all other Cougar pitches, Rehagen was called on to pitch the next game as well. Rehagen has a stress fracture in her left leg but has still been pitching.
“She did a great job,” coach Wendy Spratt said. “Normally, I don’t think Kacey would have an issue. She’s got the strength and the power to do it. If this game wasn’t so important, we wouldn’t have thrown her both games.”
The importance of the games certainly showed in the second game. The game was scoreless until the sixth inning, and both teams and both sets of fans started getting into it. Rachel Brawner said her and her teammates were not pleased with the swagger the Eagles' players, fans and even coach were showing.
“They stepped on our field thinking they were going to beat us,” Rachel Brawner said. “You can see that as a player. It was sick.”
Rehagen pounded a double after a long at-bat to start the sixth inning, and Brawner got on after being hit by a pitch. Rehagen scored on a deep single by Farmer to left that also moved Rachel Brawner to third.
Ashley Brawner attempted a sacrifice bunt to bring her sister home, but the ball went foul, and Rachel Brawner made contact with the fielder. Rachel Brawner was called out for runner interference.
Spratt said the umpire made the wrong call.
“The fielder has a right to make the play and the runner cannot interfere, provided that the fielder has a legitimate chance to make the play, and I didn’t think there was any chance to make the play,” Spratt said.
In the bottom half of the sixth, the Eagles plated two runs and won the game 2-1. The split makes the Cougars 11-3 in conference and 25-10 overall.
The Cougars will play a doubleheader against Harris Stowe University at 1 p.m. Friday in St. Louis. Spratt said she was pleased with her team’s effort.
“I think we’re capable of more,” Spratt said. “We’ll get another shot at them in the conference tournament hopefully. Now we have to win two on Friday and just wait and see how the chips fall.”