Grayson to play for JUCO softball title after winning twice

Herald Democrat

YUMA, Ariz. — The fourth-seeded Grayson Lady Vikings will play for the national championship after scoring twice in the bottom of the sixth inning to pull out a 5-4 victory over eighth-seeded San Jacinto in a semifinal elimination match-up in the National Junior College Athletic Association World Series at Pacific Avenue Athletic Complex.

JT Smith had an RBI triple and then scored on Sage Harlow’s single to lift the Lady Vikings (49-6) out of the loser’s bracket and avenge their only loss so far in the tournament against San Jacinto (40-9), which lost both times with a spot in the final on the line.

Grayson will face third-seeded Florida SouthWestern (48-4) for the national title at 2 p.m. on Saturday and needs a pair of wins to claim the championship while SouthWestern needs just one.

The Lady Vikings were four outs away from elimination when Smith tripled to tie the game, bringing in Macee Cobb, who had singled with one out.

Harlow's hit to center gave Grayson the lead and Dylann Kaderka, who threw the final two innings, retired the side in order in the seventh to clinch the berth in the title game.

After finding themselves down early, the Lady Vikings got within a run when they scored three times in the third.

Zoe Lott singled and Smith followed with a double to start the inning and Harlow had a sac fly to center to get Grayson on the board. With two outs, Hailey Vess had a two-run homer to left — her fourth blast of the Series — and the deficit was down to a run.

San Jacinto, which won the earlier match-up 2-1, jumped to a 4-0 lead after two innings thanks to a couple of errors. Alexa Saenz walked before the first miscue on a bunt had everyone safe.

Following a sacrifice, Gabby Gantu drove in a run with a groundout and Juliana Garcia followed with an RBI single to center.

The second error extended the inning and Alexis Uresti drove in two with a double.

San Jacinto never scored again despite putting a pair of runners on in the third and loading the bases with one out in the fourth.

Grayson advanced to the semifinals by winning an elimination game, 6-3, against seventh-seeded Yavapai College.

Yavapai (37-7) tied the game at three with three runs in the top of the fifth before the Lady Vikings answered in the bottom of the inning with three runs of their own.

Cheyenne Stark was 3-for-3 with three doubles and three RBI, Smith walked and scored twice and Vess and Dominique Rodriguez also drove in runs for Grayson.

Stark’s two-run double in the bottom of the third put the Lady Vikings in front.

Azia Lokeni opened the inning with a hit and Smith walked after a sacrifice. Harlow popped out but Stark picked her up with a double to center field.

Lokeni had an RBI groundout in the fourth to extend the lead but then Yavapai used a two-out rally to tie the game on four straight singles. The Roughriders loaded the bases with a walk but couldn’t take the lead.

Smith reached on an error to start the bottom of the fifth and Harlow followed with a single. Stark doubled to left to put Grayson back in front and Vess grounded into a fielder’s choice to drive in a run and make it 5-3.

Rodriguez had an RBI single to center to close out the scoring.

Yavapai brought the tying run to the plate with two outs in the seventh after a double by Mikaela Payne and a single from Miki Berg but Kaderka got her seventh strikeout to finish off the victory.