JEFFERSON CITY — "Bring out the trainer" was heard a few too many times this season for Columbia College softball coach Wendy Spratt’s liking.
While the team does not want to give excuses for some of its losses, sometimes the obvious is hard to ignore.
At the American Midwest Conference tournament championship Sunday afternoon at the Fields of Legends in Jefferson City, the rash of injuries finally caught up to the Cougars. Columbia College (29-13) had to win one out of two games to claim the AMC tournament title, but lost back-to-back games against No. 3 seed McKendree 3-0 and 7-4.
“It was important to come in and get the job done in the first game," Spratt said. "We had a lot of opportunities but we couldn’t finish.”
Pitcher Kacey Rehagen, who has been playing with an injury to her leg, started for the fourth time in three days in the first game. Rehagen pitched well, but the Cougars' offense struggled to put runs on the board.
“(Rehagen) makes me speechless. She is the toughest ballplayer I have ever played with,” first baseman Rachel Brawner said. “She won’t tell you if she’s hurt. But we know deep down it’s probably throbbing.”
In the winner-take-all second game, junior Meghan Bailey took to the mound for the Cougars. Bailey had been out with an injury to her ribs for the past couple of weeks.
“It did not feel good at all. It was all right in the beginning, but by the third (inning) it hurt,” Bailey said. “Basically, I knew I had to suck it up for the team. Kacey was hurt just as bad as I was.”
It was obvious Bailey did not look comfortable on the mound. Bailey struggled with her control and walked several Bearcat batters. After being taken out of the game in the fifth inning, Bailey got treatment from the team trainer.
“Meghan really pushed through it. She had been trying so hard to stay calm in between games. She stayed relaxed and rested,” Brawner said.
In the fifth inning of the second game, Spratt decided to take out Bailey and Spratt put in Courtney Hatfield for Bailey, who had only pitched in one other game this season.
“I’m so proud of our pitchers. They did an amazing job to get us as far as we got,” Spratt said. “They laid it all out there.”
With the two losses, the Cougars are unlikely to get an at-large bid to the NAIA national tournament in Decatur, Alabama. The bids will be released on Tuesday. Since William Woods won the regular season AMC title, they are more likely to receive a bid.
Brawner, Tori Long, Rehagen and Valerie Teter all received first-team all-conference awards following the game. Despite missing the last month with a fractured leg, Teter was named AMC Pitcher of the Year.
Even with the disappointing finish and the array of injuries, the Cougars feel they still had a successful season.
“I think I had the most fun this year than I had all four years here,” Brawner said. “We all hang out. We meshed really well. I’m really going to miss them next year.”