JEFFERSON CITY — When Kacey Rehagen steps on the mound for the Columbia College softball team, she knows her team is counting on her.
But these days, it seems the team is leaning on her a bit more. With star pitcher Valerie Teter out with a fractured leg and Meghan Bailey out with a stress fracture in her ribs, the Cougars are without many options. Other than Teter, Bailey and Rehagen, only Courtney Hatfield has seen action on the mound, though Hatfield has pitched only one game for the Cougars.
“I’m just trying to do my best,” Rehagen said. “I know everyone is counting on me.”
On Saturday at the Fields of Legends in Jefferson City, the Cougars relied heavily on Rehagen’s right arm. Rehagen threw two complete games Saturday to put the Cougars in the championship of the American Midwest Conference tournament. The Cougars defeated Missouri Baptist 3-1 in their first game and No. 1 seed William Woods 3-1 in their second game.
What makes Rehagen’s accomplishment more impressive is that she is not 100 percent healthy. She is dealing with a stress fracture of her own in her left leg.
“When I’m warming up, I can feel it,” Rehagen said. “But in the game, it goes away.”
In the first game of the day, it appeared Rehagen might be the tough luck losing pitcher. The Cougars trailed 1-0 heading into the bottom of the seventh. With two on and two out, Cougar third baseman Jena Strobel sent the first pitch she saw over the left field fence to beat the Spartans. The walk-off home run kept the Cougars on the winner’s side of the bracket.
“I was on the biggest high,” Strobel said.
The home run came after the Spartans intentionally walked Cougar Rachel Brawner. That move backfired on the Spartans.
“She (Strobel) had a great hitting day in both games,” Columbia College coach Wendy Spratt said. “It’s a great thing to stay on the winner’s side of the bracket.”
In game two against the Owls, the Cougars Krista Vlasak doubled in two runs in the top of the fourth inning to make it 2-0. After allowing a run in the bottom half of the fourth, Rehagen rolled through the Owls’ lineup. A double by Cougar Ashley Farmer in the top of the seventh gave Rehagen an insurance run heading into the final frame. Spratt was impressed with the way Rehagen performed.
“She did an amazing job. She’s got to be our most improved player,” Spratt said. “She’s made so much progress. Since Val (Teter) went out, she has really stepped up.”
The Cougars will face the winner of a McKendree/William Woods match-up, which is scheduled for noon Sunday at Legends Fields in Jefferson City. The winner of that game will face the Cougars at 2 p.m. If the Cougars win, the AMC tournament title and automatic bid to the NAIA national tournament is theirs. If the Cougars lose the first game, they will face a winner-take-all game at 4 p.m. Sunday.