Softball clinches conference title outright, seniors recognized

Grant Cohen

Seniors in Wichita State’s softball program have shared many memories during their time in at the university. The Shockers gave an early farewell gift to their five seniors on Tuesday, clinching at least a share of the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season championship with a 5-4 win against Missouri State.

Head coach Kristi Bredbenner’s team made the graduate’s farewell one to remember, sweeping Southern Illinois on Saturday to win the MVC regular season title outright.

“I’m proud and really happy for (the seniors),” Bredbenner said. “They are the reason that we are at this level. They wanted to change this program and they did a really good job of that.”

Senior Cacy Williams put the Shockers on the scoreboard first with a two run home run in the bottom of the third inning. Saluki second baseman, Savannah Fisher, tied the game at 2-2 in the top of the fourth inning with a two run home run into left field.

The lead was quickly regained by WSU, grabbing a 3-2 lead off of a home run by freshman Laurie Ann Derrico in the bottom of the fourth inning.

“That is the way post season is going to be,” Bredbenner said. “We had a lot of quality bats. We did what we needed to do to give us a chance to win.”

Southern Illinois responded a half inning later, tying the game off of a double by Merri Ann Patterson and regaining the lead off of a wild pitch by WSU.

“We have a lot of confidence in each other,” Fortner said. “It’s fun to see everyone contributing up and down the line. We know that anyone in our lineup can get a hit.”

A leadoff single by junior Macklin Hitz in the bottom of the fifth inning put the tying run on first base, setting up the go ahead run at the plate. WSU would grab the lead for good, scoring two runs off of a home run by senior Brittany Fortner.

Junior Katie Malone protected the Shocker’s lead in the final 2.2 innings of the game, only allowing two hits while striking out one Saluki batter to help the Shockers clinch the MVC regular-season title outright 5-4 in Saturday’s first game on Saturday.

“Ending the season like that was bitter sweet,” Fortner said. “It’s sad that it came to an end, but it’s been a fun ride.”

Although the Shockers dropped game two 11-1, WSU (33-19, 18-6) claimed the no. 1 seed in the MVC tournament starting on May 12 in Carbondale, Illinois. The winner in Carbondale earns the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

#48 Liz Broyles, Blanchard, Oklahoma

Transferring from UMKC after her freshman year, senior Liz Broyles immediately made an impact for the Shockers in 2014 as a sophomore. Her .313 batting average with 51 hits were fourth best on the team, adding six home runs with 40 RBI’s on the year.

Broyles started all 55 games for the Shockers, helping WSU to their first MVC regular-season title in program history in 2014.

As a junior, Broyles was a member of the 2015 All-MVC Second Team, having a batting average of .323. She had a career high of five hits against Drake on March 29, driving in four RBI’s.

Hitting .353 as a senior, Broyles hit four home runs with 33 RBI’s as the Shockers claimed the 2016 MVC – season championship. Broyles will graduate in the Fall of 2016 with a degree in Exercise Science from WSU.

“It’s been a pretty crazy ride,” Broyles said. “My biggest memory is having the relationships with all of the girls and I’m glad I’ve ended it pretty well.”

#18 Brittany Fortner, Cedar Hill, Missouri

Fortner will leave Wichita as the all time Shocker leader in doubles, hitting 56 during her four year career. Her .358 batting average helped the Shockers earn their first MVC regular-season title in program history in 2014, earning a spot on the MVC All-First Team and a spot on the NFCA Division 1 All-Midwest Region Second Team.

Hitting .416 as a junior, Fortner earned spots on the All-MVC First Team and National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division 1 Southeast All-Region First Team in 2015. Along with having a fielding percentage of 1.000, Fortner was named an NFCA All-America Scholar-Athlete in that same year.

As a senior in 2016, Fortner hit her 54th double of the season on April 16 against Bradley to make her the all time leader for doubles in Shocker softball history. Fortner had 13 games of two or more hits in her senior season, hitting .313 on the year.

She led the Shockers with 15 doubles on the year, helping WSU claim their second MVC regular-season championship in two years. Fortner will graduate later this month with a degree in Accounting from WSU.

“I’ll miss the relationship with my teammates,” Fortner said. “I’ll miss the bond I’ve had with my teammates, because you’ve been through so much together.”

#7 Paige Mason, Olathe, Kansas

Senior Paige Mason was a key member of the 2014 MVC championship team, hitting .290 with seven home runs and 23 RBI’s as a sophomore. Starting in 45 games for the Shockers, Mason managed to have an on base percentage of .361 and a fielding percentage of .906.

As a junior, she appeared in 36 games and stole 11 bases. She hit a grand slam home run on March 7, 2015 against South Dakota that scored four Shocker runners. Mason also hit a crucial two RBI double in a 4-1 win on March 31, 2015 against Omaha.

Her leadership as a senior helped boost the younger team member’s confidence as the Shockers claimed the 2016 MVC regular-season championship. Mason will graduate in August of 2016 with a degree in Criminal Justice from WSU.

“Coach B really built this program from the ground up,” Mason said. “I’m gonna miss working hard with my girls and building this program up. I feel like I am part of a legacy.”

#44 Ashlynne Neil, Winters, California

Coming into the program in her junior season from the College of San Mateo, senior Ashlynne Neil’s impact was immediate in 2015. Holding a 1-1 record with 16.2 innings pitched, Neil struck out six batters and held opponents to a .296 batting average pitching relief.

Along with earning a spot as an NFCA All-America Scholar-Athlete in 2015, Neil helped give the Shockers two big wins in 2016 against Bowling Green and Bradley. She managed to only allow two hits with one run against Bowling Green while striking out two Bradley batters in 3.1 innings pitched on an April 16 victory.

Neil pitched in 12 games while starting two in 2016, helping the Shockers at relief pitcher to help claim the 2016 MVC regular-season championship. Majoring in psychology, Neil will earn her degree from WSU later this month.

“I’ve really enjoyed my time in Kansas,” Neil said. “I’ve enjoyed learning from Coach B, Coach Stefankiewicz, and Coach Hudson and being around my teammates.”

#21 Cacy Williams, Platte City, Missouri

Williams brought her talent to the softball program as a sophomore after playing her freshman year at Emporia State. Along with leading the 2014 Shockers to their first MVC regular-season title, Williams won the MVC Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year as well as earning a spot on the NFCA Division-1 All-Midwest Region First Team.

After a .422 batting average with 16 home runs as a sophomore, Williams continued her strong hitting in 2015 with nine home runs and bringing in 38 RBI’s. While collecting 16 doubles on the year, she earned a spot on the 2015 All-MVC First Team, her second year in a row receiving that honor.

Entering her final year as a Shocker in 2016, Williams became the all time Shocker RBI and home run leader, hitting her 36th career home run on April 23 against Drake. She hit her 37th and 38th career home runs on Saturday against Southern Illinois.

Her .356 batting average was second on the team, leading the Shockers with 52 hits in route to their second MVC regular-season championship in program history in 2016. Williams will graduate from WSU in the Fall of 2016 with a degree in PreK-12 Physical Education.

“I’ll definitely being out on the field with my teammates, but I’m really going to miss the bus rides,” Williams said. “The time we get to spend together outside of softball is something I’m really going to miss.”