Softball Fever!

Infielder Alea Bier in game against Montclair State.

Infielder Alea Bier in game against Montclair State.

From the Roanoke College Magazine, Issue Two, 2012. View the entire Roanoke Magazine online.

The Roanoke Maroons Softball Team finished the season in a manner most people never expected - in the NCAA Division III Championship tournament, the "World Series" of softball. The team - dubbed "The Dirty Dozen" by their competitors because of their short team roster - finished fourth in the tournament. Eight teams competed.

Roanoke's magical post-season run at the NCAA Div. III Softball Championship came to an end after a 6-1 loss to #3 ranked Linfield College on May 20, the third day of the tournament.

The Maroons ended the season with a record of 35-11. The team is the 14th in Roanoke College history to reach the final four in their respective sport. They are also the second women's program to garner the accomplishment.

Roanoke first claimed the ODAC title on May 14 with a 7-2 win over Bridgewater College. Freshman pitcher Kelly Higbie '15 was named the ODAC tournament's Most Valuable Player.

After winning the ODAC, Roanoke won the NCAA Div. III Newport News Regional Tournament to advance to the 2012 NCAA Softball Championship, which is hosted by the City of Salem. By the time the team made it back to Salem for the tournament, the team had lost one player who'd traveled to India for her May term course. That left just 11 players - two back-ups on the bench compared to the 10 or more back-up players on most of the other teams in the tournament.

"We started [the season] off with only 12 players and I think everyone kind of counted us out in the ODAC just because there were only 12 of us. But we're a spunky little 12," Felice Lowery '12, Roanoke's catcher, told The Roanoke Times.

In an ultimate pitchers' duel, Roanoke College defeated #8 ranked Tufts University, 1-0 in the opening round of the championship tournament. Higbie pitched a one-hitter in her 34th complete game of the season.  She faced 25 batters and struck out three. The Roanoke fielders helped tremendously in the one-hitter as they kept Tufts from getting a single ball out of the infield. Rhea Schleicher '15, Stephanie Clark '12, Alea Bier '12 and Hollee Warlitner '15 each finished with one hit. Schleicher scored the lone run for Roanoke, while Warlitner's double tallied the team's only RBI.

Roanoke fell in the second game to Montclair State University 2-0. The Maroons were only able to tally two hits with a double by Leona Rainey '12 and a single by Stephanie Clark.

Higbie pitched her 35th complete game. With her four strikeouts on the evening, Hibgie broke the Roanoke single-season strikeouts record, tallying 136.  She passes Lyndsi Craig, who struck out 132 batters in 2006.

In another close game, Roanoke won over Luther College, a fellow Lutheran college, 2-0 on the afternoon of May 20 to advance to another game that evening.

Higbie earned a spot on the 2012 NCAA Div. III Softball Championship All-Tournament Team for her work inside the circle and at the plate. Higbie went 3-for-3 in the Maroons 2-0 victory over Luther College. She also pitched two complete game shutouts during the Championship round as well.

The success of Maroons softball and the excitement of the NCAA Championship tournament led to a serious case of softball fever throughout the College community.

Many softball alumnae returned to Salem to support their team. The Maroon Club sponsored tailgate events to allow fans to come together during the weekend. President and First Lady Mike and Terri Maxey were spotted cheering from the front row. Faculty and staff came from their classes and offices to cheer on the Maroons. Even though many students were traveling with May term and some had gone home for the summer, a good number of them made it out for the games, coloring the stands with maroon shirts and banners.

Maroons Softball by the Numbers

11 RC players at the Softball Championships (12 RC players throughout the regular season)

14th team in Roanoke College history to reach the final four in their respective sport

3rd RC women's program to reach the final four in their respective sport

Pitcher Kelly Higbie's record, including World Series, was 30-10

Overall season record for the Maroons was 35-11; conference record was 13-5

Stephanie Clark held the best individual batting average for the Maroons (Stephanie Clark) - .404

Total RC team runs for the season was 292

1,500 fans per RC game of the Softball Championships