COLUMBIA — It was a letdown for the Columbia College softball team.
After battling to beat visiting Williams Baptist 4-3 in 12 innings in the first game of a doubleheader Saturday, the Cougars lost to the Eagles 4-2 in the second game, squandering a chance to move to the top of the American Midwest Conference standings.
Columbia College, ranked No. 22 in the NAIA at 18-11 and 5-3 in the AMC, ended the afternoon one game behind No. 18-ranked Williams Baptist (19-7, 8-2).
“We’re definitely disappointed,” Cougars coach Wendy Spratt said. “Should we tie with them (at the end of the conference season), they’ll host the conference tournament.”
In the first game, things looked bleak for Columbia College in the bottom of the sixth inning. Down 1-0 and unable to muster any serious offense up to that point, first baseman Rachel Coleman stepped to the plate with two outs.
With three balls and two strikes, Coleman drove the ball to deep left field. She sprinted toward first base but slowed slightly after watching the neon yellow ball drop behind the fence.
“I thought it was just a base hit,” Coleman said. “I was so stoked that it went out.”
The Cougars had another close call after Williams Baptist went ahead 2-1 in the 10th inning.
With two outs, senior co-captain Valerie Teter appeared to fly out after the left fielder reached over the wall in the foul area to make the catch. Williams Baptist started to run in, celebrating the end of the game. Then, the umpires quickly ruled that the catch had been made in dead-ball territory.
On the next pitch, Teter doubled to score Whitni Howell to tie the game.
Williams Baptist moved ahead 3-2 on an error in the 11th. Coleman tied it again for the Cougars in the bottom of the frame with a single that drove in Kacey Rehagen.
Then, with one out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the 12th, freshman Marli Hayes hit a ground ball through the infield to drive in Kristin Eiken for the winning run.
Afterward, only one word could describe the 2½-hour affair.
“Battle,” Spratt said. “It was a battle. They got on top every time and we came back to win.”
Hayes echoed her coach.
“No team was willing to lose,” she said. “But we put it together and found a way to win.”
Teter (12-7) pitched all 12 innings for the Cougars, allowing six hits and striking out 12. She pitched seven more innings in the second game.
“When your ace says she’s still got it, you keep her in,” Spratt said.
Things started well for the Cougars. After Spratt told her team she wanted to score first, sophomore co-captain Morgan Bounds obliged with a two-RBI single in the top of the fourth.
The lead did not last long. Williams Baptist came back to score four runs in the bottom of the inning.
The Cougars threatened to score in the top of the sixth, but with runners on second and third and two outs, Eiken flied out.
The Cougars are set to play another AMC doubleheader starting at 2 p.m. Monday against Park University (22-12).