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Oklahoma City shortstop Kasey Hoben tags out Lee catcher Bobbi Easler. Oklahoma City defeated Lee (Tenn.) 10-1 on Saturday and stands atop Pool B with a 4-0 record.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
Oklahoma City shortstop Kasey Hoben tags out Lee catcher Bobbi Easler. Oklahoma City defeated Lee (Tenn.) 10-1 on Saturday and stands atop Pool B with a 4-0 record.

Sparkling Stars
Oklahoma City shines with 4-0 NAIA record

By Mark Edwards
· medwards@decaturdaily.com
340-2461

As Oklahoma City’s softball team left Wilson Morgan Park on Saturday afternoon, the players and coaches had to wait a few minutes before boarding the bus.

They had to wait for the air conditioning to kick in and cool down the inside of the bus.

Judging from Oklahoma City’s results so far in the NAIA championships, it may take a little longer for anybody to cool down the Stars. During the second day of pool play, Oklahoma City edged perennial power Simon Fraser of Canada 3-1 and then beat Lee (Tenn.) 10-1. This came after the Stars beat Vanguard (Ohio) 7-0 and Columbia (Mo.) 10-0 Friday.

Oklahoma City’s reward for four wins in two days is a spot in the eight-team double-elimination bracket, which begins Monday. Admission is $7.

“I guess we’re back where we used to feel like we always belong,” said OCU coach Phil McSpadden, who has led his team to seven NAIA championships, including six in Decatur.

“If we keep playing like we’re capable of playing, then we’ve got a good shot at doing something.”

Oklahoma City was one of the most dominant programs that came to Decatur for the NAIA tournament.

The Stars have seen the pack of top-echelon teams catch up to them in recent years. After winning the championship the first five times Decatur hosted the tournament, OCU finished seventh in 2003 and ’06, third in 2004 and didn’t make it out of pool play in 2005.

But this time, the Stars have played a little like those old championship teams that Decatur softball fans might remember.

And a couple of losses might’ve given OCU a boost for this year’s tournament. Heading into the Region VI tournament, the Stars had rolled to 44 wins in 48 games and rode
a streak of 26 straight victories. They had moved to No. 2 in the NAIA rankings, and even had taken a first-place vote away from No. 1 California Baptist, which also swept four wins Friday and Saturday at Wilson Morgan Park.

Then after a 6-2 win over Rogers State, the Stars lost 1-0 to St. Gregory’s and 1-0 to Houston Baptist, which eliminated them from the double-elimination event.

They made the NAIA championships because they had a high enough ranking to qualify for one of the seven at-large bids.

McSpadden said his team might’ve learned from those losses, and the players said they can’t argue with that.

“Last year, we breezed through regionals and then lost our first two games here in the double-elimination bracket,” senior shortstop Rachel Cope said. “This year, we had the taste of losing in our mouths, and it’s been a rude awakening.”

It seems to have helped, too, that Oklahoma City has had three pitchers who McSpadden hasn’t been afraid to use. Typically, the best teams at the NAIA tournament have had only two reliable pitchers, and often, they might have only one.

On Saturday, McSpadden used sophomore Julie Harvey (16-1), sophomore Jordan Schwenke (8-2) and senior Dasha Shembereva (27-3) in the win over Simon Fraser, limiting a team that had averaged 10.3 runs to a single run.

Lee averaged nearly six runs a game, but Shembereva and Schwenke limited the Lady Flames to one run.

Last year, McSpadden pitched Shembereva, who is from Moscow, almost every inning.

McSpadden said that it’s not about having a No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 pitcher, but instead having different options against different teams. For example, he said he allowed Harvey to start against Simon Fraser because he thought her style of changing speeds and mixing up her pitches would work against the Clan.

“You can’t beat Simon Fraser with power,” McSpadden said. “You’ve got to change speeds and move it around or else they’re going to light you up.”

However, McSpadden allowed Shembereva, a power pitcher, to work the final two innings. She didn’t allow a run and struck out five batters to close out the win.

In addition to the pitching, OCU has gotten dependable defense so far in the tournament. The Stars made only one error in two games Saturday, and again, those losses in the region tournament helped motivate them in that regard.

“We weren’t hitting in the region tournament, and we had to play good defense to keep the other team from scoring,” third baseman Cat Calvert said. “It made us realize that we need hitting, defense and a solid pitching staff. We need to do well in all areas.”

NAIA Softball Championships

Saturday’s scores

Pool A

California Baptist 6, Mobile 1

Savannah Art & Design (Ga.) 5, Virginia-Wise 2

Dickinson State (N.D.) 4, Mobile 3

California Baptist 14, Savannah Art & Design (Ga.) 1

Dickinson State (N.D.) 4, Virginia-Wise 1

Pool standings: *California Baptist 4-0, *Dickinson State 3-1, Savannah Art & Design 2-2, Mobile 1-3, Virginia-Wise 0-4.

Pool B

Oklahoma City 3, Simon Fraser (Canada) 1

Vanguard (Calif.) 2, Columbia (Mo.) 0

Oklahoma City 10, Lee (Tenn.) 1

Simon Fraser (Canada) 5, Vanguard (Calif.) 4, 8 innings

Lee (Tenn.) 7, Columbia (Mo.) 4

Pool standings: *Oklahoma City 4-0, *Simon Fraser 3-1, Vanguard 2-2, Lee 1-3, Columbia 0-4.

Pool C

Houston Baptist 3, Trevecca Nazarene (Tenn.) 2

Bethel (Ind.) 7, Thomas (Ga.) 1

Houston Baptist 3, Shorter (Ga.) 1

Trevecca Nazarene (Tenn.) 9, Thomas (Ga.) 1

Bethel (Ind.) 5, Shorter (Ga.) 1

Pool standings: *Houston Baptist 3-1, *Trevecca Nazarene 3-1, Bethel 2-2, Shorter 1-3, Thomas 1-3.

Pool D

Point Loma Nazarene (Calif.) 1, St. Gregory’s (Okla.) 0, 10 innings

Tiffin (Ohio) 7, William Penn (Iowa) 6

St. Gregory’s (Okla.) 3, Bellevue (Neb.) 2

Point Loma Nazarene (Calif.) 2, William Penn (Iowa) 1

Tiffin (Ohio) 3, Bellevue (Neb.) 2

Pool standings: *Point Loma Nazarene 4-0, *St.Gregory’s 3-1, Tiffin 2-2, William Penn 1-3, Bellevue 0-4.

*Advanced to double-elimination portion of the tournament, which begins Monday.

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