CLINTON, Miss. — No. 1-ranked LSU Eunice didn’t beat just its first-round opponent in the NJCAA Division II National Softball Championship on Wednesday.
It also beat the elements to the punch.
The Lady Bengals (59-2) endured a four-hour rain delay, then run-ruled 16th-seeded Delaware Tech Community College-Owens 11-3 in 4½ innings at Traceway Park, finishing business just before persistent rain and sloppy field conditions wiped out the rest of the schedule.
“We knew it was going to rain,” said outfielder Emily Nolan, whose two-run homer in the bottom of the first gave LSU Eunice the lead for good. “We stayed excited and pumped. We knew if we kept the same intensity we had earlier, we would be fine. I think we dealt with it really well.”
The Lady Bengals were going through their pregame routine for a 1:30 p.m. start when coach Andy Lee received a text message saying the game was being pushed back to 5:30. None of the three other 5:30 games were completed, and none of the four games that were pushed back from 3:30 to 7:30 got started.
The backlog will have to be completed Thursday when the weather is supposed to improve. LSU Eunice is scheduled to play at 3:30 p.m. against the winner of a game between eighth-seeded Scottsdale and ninth-seeded Kankakee, which was postponed until 9:30 a.m. Thursday.
“I’m glad we got this one in,” Lee said.
The Lady Bengals had an 11-3 lead entering the top of the fifth, needing a scoreless inning to shorten the game by having an eight-run after five innings in the field.
The Lady Roadrunners put two runners on with one out and they advanced to second and third on a grounder before Raven Cole struck out Kristen Collins to end the game.
“I’m so proud of the way she kept her composure,” Lee said of Cole, who said she took a nap at the hotel during the delay. “She didn’t make excuses and she didn’t panic. She just attacked the strike zone and did just what we needed.”
Cole said she made an adjustment to keep her pitching hand and the ball relatively dry during what was often a driving rainstorm, with wind blowing the rain sideways. Instead of holding the ball in her pitching hand behind her back as she normally would, she kept the ball in her glove and held her pitching hand close to her side, keeping her palm dry.
“I pitched in the rain against Belhaven in the fall and I was terrible,” she said. “I couldn’t buy a strike. I got lucky with this.”
Delaware Tech starter Mykala Steele didn’t handle the conditions as well, walking seven before being relieved with two out in the third.
After the Lady Roadrunners took a 1-0 lead on Steele’s sacrifice fly in the top of the first, Codi Covington led off with a single and Nolan homered to center.
LSU Eunice increased the lead to 5-1 in the third on a single, three walks, a wild pitch, an illegal pitch and Taylor Boulet’s sacrifice fly.
After Lauren Illian’s single brought home two unearned runs for Delaware Tech in the third, the Lady Bengals answered with six. The first run scored on a wild pitch, Ashley Subervielle doubled in two, Covington singled in one and Nolan and Destin Vicknair, who’s scheduled to be the starting pitcher Thursday, drew bases-loaded walks. All of those runs scored after two were out.
“I was real excited about how we swung the bats,” Lee said. “We squared up a lot of line drives and we had some big two-out hits. We made the best of our opportunities.”
Follow Les East on Twitter: @EastAdvocate.