COLUMBIA — Their helmets were backwards.
Bottom of the seventh, down 4-2. Two on base. One out.
Columbia College split their American Midwest Conference Tournament games Saturday, defeating Park University 5-4 and falling to William Woods University 4-3, making their overall record 22-17.
Freshman Tiffany Urwiler relieved junior Taylor Richter in the second inning of Game 1 after Park scored four runs against Richter. Urwiler allowed two hits over the final six innings, earning her sixth win of the season.
Junior Jamie Holmes led the Cougars offense in Game 1 with three hits and three runs scored. Junior Marli Hayes added two hits and three RBIs.
Urwiler gave up three runs on four hits in the first 2 2/3 innings in Game 2. Sophomore Maria Imhoff relieved Urwiler in the third inning, allowing one run on one hit for the rest of the game.
Senior Karina Veit went 3-for-3 in Game 2, finishing with six hits.
The Cougars will face Park again at noon Sunday at Antimi Black Field at Cosmopolitan Park as the AMC Tournament continues. The tournament bracket can be found at www.amcsportsonline.com.
And the members of the Columbia College softball team stood cheering desperately in the dugout, each of their helmets sitting backwards on their heads.
It's like a rally cap, sophomore Maria Imhoff said. They don't have baseball caps to flip into rally mode, so they just use their helmets as they hope for hits.
But the Cougars didn't just rely on the rally caps' luck. In Saturday's game against William Woods, the third game for Columbia College in the American Midwest Conference Tournament, the Cougars also relied on Imhoff — but in a different way than usual.
The game right before on Saturday had also ended with tense excitement. Up 5-4 against Park University, the Cougars had to hold off Park in the bottom of the seventh.
The crowd seemed to hold its breath as freshman pitcher Tiffany Urwiler finished out the game, her sighs audible from the stands when she missed the strike zone. An array of messages then rose from the fans, telling Urwiler to "just relax" but also to "get dirty."
But she got it done, retiring Park's last two batters.
After securing the 5-4 win for the Cougars, Urwiler prepared to start the next game, something she doesn't normally do. Freshman Amber Boehme, one of the Cougars' top pitchers, sat icing her right shoulder, unable to play.
Urwiler lasted the first 2 2/3 innings.
"Me?" Imhoff said.
She had been throwing with sophomore Jessica Hardy on an empty strip of grass, the spare fields too wet to practice on. As an outfielder this season, she wasn't really expecting it.
She was going in to pitch.
"She's nervous," Hardy told the team after she returned to the dugout.
Imhoff licked her right hand, wiped it on her leg. She thrust her right foot forward and sent the ball toward the plate.
Although she wasn't expecting to pitch for the Cougars on Saturday, she had been practicing pitching her whole life. She says a rush comes over her at the mound. She thinks, "You're better than the batter." She remembers the defense that's behind her. She remains confident.
Imhoff wears a headband around her ears for warmth. When she bats, it hangs around her neck, her helmet in its way. The only Cougars player to both pitch and hit, she tries not to let her offense affect her defense.
Saturday, Imhoff allowed one run on one hit over 4 1/3 innings.
Although the rally caps didn't work and the Cougars lost 4-3 to the Owls, Imhoff seized her opportunity, and, according to Cougars coach Wendy Spratt, she "excelled."
The Cougars will play Park again Sunday as the double-elimination AMC Tournament continues.
Supervising editor is Grant Hodder.