IRVINE, Calif. --- All season long Biola was ranked as the second-best team in the Golden State Athletic Conference, and at times the Eagles looked like the best. Today they split their final two games at the GSAC tournament to become the GSAC runner-up.
Biola played the game of its life in the opener as they had to beat San Diego Christian in a single-elimination game in order to make it to the afternoon championship and face No. 1 Concordia.
It was an absolute clash of the titans as the two teams battled it out over the course of nine innings, and they played scoreless softball until Brooke Madrid was able to make her best contact of the season and doubled into a hole Biola had been aiming for all game to score Heather Hall.
"Brooke Madrid played so amazing all day, and she came up huge for us," said Head Coach Lorie Coleman. "I have been trying to figure out who to hit behind Heather, because pitchers have been walking her so much lately. I settled on Brooke, and she took that spot and hit a pitch at the right time for us."
Madrid's game-ending double that gave the Eagles a 1-0 win and berth in the GSAC Tournament Championship was a special at bat, because it helped the No. 12 Eagles get a shot to maintain their place in the national coaches' poll.
The higher Biola is ranked in the final coaches' top-25 poll, the better shot the team will have at securing one of a very limited number of at large bids into the NAIA National Softball Championship Opening Round.
"This was the game of our lives," said Coleman. "It meant so much for us to win this game."
Biola and San Diego Christian entered the game with five other meetings on the season. Biola had won 3-of-5, but San Diego Christian had wins in two of the last three meetings and had just handed the Eagles a loss yesterday.
Coleman mentioned that the Hawks are a tough team to play because they just matchup so well against Biola's offense. The coach of the Hawks does a great job of adjusting her defensive alignment to keep the Eagles' offense from doing anything effective.
Her schemes were working throughout the game again today, but luckily for the Eagles, Biola had Reba DePriest firing on all cylinders in the opener. She went all nine innings, and she allowed just five hits to the Hawks, while tacking on nine strikeouts.
DePriest kept Biola in the game despite San Diego Christian's starter, Josie Tucker, and her defense's efforts to slow the Eagles' bats. The Hawks only had one opportunity to push a run across the plate all game long, and that went by the wayside thanks to a great defensive play by Madrid.
The run-scoring double in the bottom of the ninth gave Biola a walkoff win and the life it was searching for as it earned a chance to face Concordia just under an hour after the conclusion of this semifinal.
Unfortunately, the Eagles were blanked by Brittani McGue and suffered their fifth loss to Concordia in a 5-0 GSAC Tournament Championship game. The loss put Biola at 34-12 to end this portion of the season. No. 1 Concordia improved to 48-5 and took the lone automatic tournament berth the GSAC is granted. They are also an NAIA tournament opening round host.
Now it is Biola's time to wait and see how the rest of conference postseason play plays out. The Eagles need a lot to go their way in order to get an at large bid, but have definitely played well enough and left enough out on the line to get a look.
The field of participants in the NAIA Opening Round will be announced on May 6.