They might want to recast their votes after Gapka’s stellar pitching helped the Cougars beat William Woods 6-1 at Columbia College.
The Cougars (40-9), ranked No. 8 in the NAIA, won their third straight conference tournament championship and secured the No. 1 seed in the Region V tournament Monday in Springfield, Mo.
Gapka (18-4), a junior transfer from Winnipeg, Manitoba, relied on a rising fastball and continually hit the outside corners of the plate. She allowed four hits and struck out three. The majority of her outs came when she induced eight pop flies in a row in the fourth through sixth innings.
Gapka's riseball forces popups
Gapka said she wanted more flyouts than groundouts.
“It’s nice when it does happen because (pop flies) are usually easier than a groundout,” she said. “When I throw a riseball, that is usually what the ball does and that’s what I wanted to happen.”
Gapka, who finished the conference season 6-0, pitched her first game since April 26 and looked sluggish in the first two innings when she allowed two walks and three hits. The Owls (38-16) couldn’t capitalize with runners in scoring position, though, and Gapka didn’t give them much more to hit.
“She was a little nervous,” Cougars coach Wendy Spratt said. “It was the championship game and her first time here. She settled down and did a great job.”
Gapka said the game’s magnitude affected her.
“I was a little reluctant in the first couple innings because it was a big game,” she said. “Finally, I got in there and eased up a bit.”
Gapka said her run support helped.
Fourth innings sparks Cougars' bats
In the fourth inning, Columbia College, which had scored two runs in its past 33 innings, finally resembled the team that led the conference in every hitting category.
Ashley Perrigo led off the inning with a single up the middle, but a bunt from Cindy Fotti forced Perrigo out at second. Chris Schoonover and Amanda Hodges hit back-to-back singles to load the bases. Megan Kuntze responded with a bases-clearing double to right field and advanced to third on the throw. A sacrifice fly by Anna Seipp scored Kuntze. The inning ended on an Amy Seipp flyout.
Kuntze said she knew the Cougars would score.
“It was just another at-bat,” she said. “I’d been hitting the ball hard, but I would just hit it to people. I figured eventually it has to fall at some point. It was a good time for that to happen.”
Earlier in the day, the Cougars defeated the Owls 1-0 in eight innings when Amy Seipp hit a winning single to left field.
Monica Mueller (21-5) picked up the win She allowed two hits and struck out seven.
Owls’ coach Tracy Gastineau said her team didn’t play up to its potential in either game.
“We showed flashes of what we’re capable of, but all in all, didn’t play like we wanted to, and when you don’t in a tough conference like this, you aren’t going to take home the trophy,” she said.
AMC POSTSEASON AWARDS: After the game, Fotti, Kuntze, Amy Seipp, Krista Viefhaus and Mueller received all-conference honors.
Seipp was named Player of the Year and Mueller was named Pitcher of the Year.
“It was actually a real surprise,” Seipp said. “I didn’t expect it at all. It is a great reward, but it really takes a team effort.”
Spratt said more Cougars deserved to be recognized.
“It’s great for Amy and Monica to get pitcher and player of the year,” she said. “It’s tough because you can only nominate so many people and I think there are other people on our team that deserve to be all-conference as well.”