CANYON, Texas – In one of the most memorable games in Colorado School of Mines softball history, the NFCA No. 11 Orediggers fell one rally short as No. 7 and second-seeded West Texas A&M advanced in the NCAA South Central Regional on Saturday with a 6-3, 13-inning win at Schaeffer Park in Canyon, Texas.
With 11 scoreless frames in the books, the host Lady Buffs (44-12) were the first to break through in the battle of attrition, taking a 3-0 lead on RBI singles by Kaylah Ellyson and Mercedes Garcia in the top of the 12th inning.
Down to its last out in the bottom of the inning, Mines (40-7-1) persevered on just as it had done for much of the nearly 4.5 hour game as juniors Gianna Duncan and Sami Springer reached on a pair of two-out singles. Sophomore Cassie Ford fell behind 1-2 in the count, fouling off three pitches, including two long fly balls, before squaring the sixth pitch over the fence in left center for her seventh home run this season
West Texas A&M stole back the momentum in their next at-bat with three more runs on two hits and an Oredigger miscue.
In the 13th, junior Courtney Derus blooped a single to left field and senior Macy Jones induced a six-pitch walk as Mines brought the tying run to the plate with two outs. Quickly faced with a 0-2 hole, senior Kamee Vessey staved off five pitches and eventually worked the count full, yet just missed on the 11th pitch of the at-bat as the game and season came to a close on a foul out to the third baseman.
The game ranks as the longest in program history in terms of duration at 4 hours, 23 minutes and tied the record for most innings played, set back in 2011 when Mines was part of three 13-inning marathons – all losses.
Four Orediggers tallied multi-hit efforts in the back-and-forth affair, led by Derus who had her team-leading fourth three-hit game, going 3-for-5 with a hit by pitch. Springer and classmate Melissa Marshall each finished 2-for-6 and Jones went 2-for-4 with a 10th-inning, one-out double and career-high tying three walks.
Ford was 1-for-5 with the three RBI and one run scored.
Vessey, Duncan and senior Molly Thiebaut each posted 1-for-6 lines. Thiebaut nearly walked off the game with two outs in the 11th, lining a single off the yellow tape at the top of the left field fence that was less than three inches shy from leaving the park.
Vessey added an intentional walk; her 33rd free pass of the season – third-highest single-season total at Mines – loaded the bases with one out in the 10th, while Duncan ended the season on a 15-game reached base streak and 12-game hitting streak – fifth-longest all-time by an Oredigger – with her two-out base hit to center in the 12th.
Despite taking the loss, senior Kelly Unkrich (26-3) turned in one of the greatest pitching performance in program lore. The three-time RMAC Pitcher of the Year and likely All-American fought past a small strike zone, delivering 170 of her 294 pitches for strikes and fanning a collegiate-best 12 batters with just three earned runs and nine hits allowed in the third 13.0-inning complete game of her career.
The loss brought to a close the Silver-and-Blue careers of seniors Lauren Aberle, Ashley Goletz, Jones, Thiebaut, Unkrich and Vessey, as well as red-shirt junior Stephanie Runia. The six seniors finish as the most accomplished class in Mines softball annals with three consecutive RMAC regular season titles, the school's first conference tournament championship and two berths in the NCAA Division II Softball Championship. In four seasons, the group compiled the best winning percentage and second-most wins by a graduating class with a cumulative record of 129-81-1 (61.4 percent).