Dugout snack propels Columbia College to conference tournament win

Friday, April 29, 2011 | 7:31 p.m. CDT; updated 9:04 p.m. CDT, Friday, April 29, 2011

COLUMBIA — The Columbia College softball team never goes hungry during games.

That's thanks to head coach Wendy Spratt, who always brings a plastic box full of granola bars and healthy fruit snacks to ensure her players are never running on empty.

Cougars sweep doubleheader

Game 1

Columbia College 3
Hannibal-LaGrange 0Game 2

Columbia College 4
Hannibal-LaGrange 0

Columbia College opened scoring in the first game against Hannibal-LaGrange on a single by sophomore Tori Gehlert in the bottom of the third inning. The Cougars scored two more runs in the game, another in the third on a Kristin Eiken sacrifice fly to score Rachel Coleman, and again in the fourth on Valerie Teter's two out single up the middle to score Sarah Ruff to make the score 3-0. 

That would be all the offense the Cougars needed because of their co-captain Teter (21-7), who threw seven innings, gave up two hits and struck out 13 in the first game.

In the second game, Gehlert jump started the Cougars again, this time with a solo home run in the top of the second inning to make the score 1-0. In the fifth, Coleman hit a single to score Teter, then was replaced by Ashley Brawner as a pinch-runner. Gehlert came up and blasted a triple to deep left center field, almost going over the fence for another home run and scoring Brawner from first to make it 3-0 Columbia College.

The Cougars scored one more run in the top of the sixth off a Teter double to score Chelsie Crain, leaving the Cougars to win 4-0.

Teter pitched for seven more innings in the second game, giving up two hits again and striking out seven.

The Cougars advance to the second round of the American Midwest Conference tournament, which is set to be played at 2 p.m. on Tuesday at Cougar Softball Field.

But on Friday, during the first round of the American Midwest Conference tournament in a double-header against Hannibal-LaGrange, the snack box was all but forgotten. A more sugary option took its place.

“Just in case anyone missed the memo,” co-captain Morgan Bounds said while holding up two Ziploc bags bulging with "puppy chow," a dessert made with rice cereal squares, peanut butter, melted chocolate and confectioners' sugar.

“It (the snack box) was kind of put to the side when the puppy chow showed up,” sophomore Tori Gehlert said.

Senior Ashley Brawner quickly snagged one of the bags and began snacking away in the dugout during a break between the two games. Eventually, Bounds took the bag back, but only for a moment.

“You guys are going to get sick,” freshman Alex Ridenhour said jokingly. “You should eat some dried cranberries instead.”

Ridenhour’s warning went unheeded, and the powdered sugar coated squares kept disappearing. Bounds heard Ridenhour, but her own opinion of the snack won out.

“You can never get sick off puppy chow,” Bounds said.

You may never get sick, but apparently you can use it to hit home runs. Gehlert started off the scoring in the second game with a solo shot to left center, right after she had taken a handful of the treat.

The Cougars (29-14, 15-3) swept the doubleheader, winning 3-0 and 4-0 over Hannibal-LaGrange (20-28, 4-14), and advanced to the next round of thetournament. Columbia College is set to play a double-header on Tuesday against either William Woods or McKendree at 2 p.m. in Columbia.

“(Puppy chow) is a must for our next game,” Gehlert said. “It’s a secret weapon.”

The Cougars first discovered their love for puppy chow in March during the Gulf Coast Invitational. Bounds said that her mom made a big batch before the team left and sent it with them.

“On the road trip to Alabama, it was gone before we got there,” Gehlert said.

Spratt has no problem with the team ditching her healthy snack box for the sweeter stuff.

“I don’t care what they eat as long as they feel good,” Spratt said. “In years past we had parents bring in cookies and things like that, and they would eat those.”

“I like the cookies, too,” she added with a laugh.

When Gehlert came up to bat later in the game, Bounds had some extra incentive.

“Tori, if you hit another, you will get more (puppy chow),” she yelled from the dugout.

Gehlert would not hit another home run. She settled for an RBI triple, still good enough for more chow.

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