The Edmond Sun
Starting out the postseason, the University of Central Oklahoma Bronchos softball team puttered out in the MIAA Tournament.
But UCO shifted it into another gear when the rounds of regionals began and rode the wild momentum going undefeated en route to securing the NCAA II national championship over Kutztown (Pa.) in Salem, Va.
The Bronchos dominated, going 9-0 straight through to the national title contest on May 27.
“I feel like the confidence was always there,” Central Oklahoma head coach Genny Stidham said of her troops grasping the national championship, the first in UCO history. “They decided to do whatever they could to win the regional.”
Fittingly, the national title victory was Stidham’s 450th, where she is now 450-289-2 in 16 years at the helm.
“As soon as we won the regional, I think it (confidence to win it all) was in their heads,” she said. “I think they always thought they could win the national championship. I think it really came to life in the Super Regional.
“We always find a way to win. They’ve been doing it all year non-stop, making something happen.
“It really helps when someone hits .700 out of the 9-hole.”
Kaylee Brunson, a speedy left-hander, actually batted .733 (11-for-15) with five runs driven in and seven more scored in the national tourney.
“She just played her best games out at nationals and was a big contributor in us winning that World Series,” Stidham lauded.
In order to win in softball, the athlete in the circle must be effectual. And, like all season long, southpaw Kalynn Schrock steamed through opposing hitters on the national scene.
Schrock hurled every single inning in the national tournament (28), recording all four wins giving up just four earned runs with 40 strikeouts. Schrock, who came to UCO via Choctaw High School, limited opponents to a .152 batting average.
“She is like a freight train,” Stidham said of her ace. “She was sore here and there and made it through it. She’s a workhorse.
“When you win, you play only once a day and I think that really helped us.”
Schrock only walked four batters in the World Series and was named the Most Valuable Player as teammates Kacie Edwards (.500, 3 HRs, 10 RBIs), Brunson, Nicole Workman (.357), Ally Dziadula (.375) and Tori Collett (.385) all landed on the All-Tournament Team.
Schrock set a Broncho season record for wins by winding up 34-6 with a 1.68 earned run average. She led all of NCAA Division II with the 34 wins. She also set UCO marks in innings pitched (265.2) and strikeouts (312), that already ranks fifth on Central Oklahoma’s all-time career list.
Edwards, a feared slugger in the batter’s box, came up with huge timely hits not only in crunch time in the postseason, but throughout the entire spring.
“She’s been big-time clutch the last two years,” said Stidham. “When the press is on — more often than not — she’s going to come up with big hits.”
Defensively throughout the year, Collet, only a freshman, was the perfect battery mate for Schrock behind the dish.
Collet originally was brought in to play third base, but an injury and a player not coming in to play for the Bronchos over the summer put Stidham in a bind.
“Didn’t bring her in to play catcher,” Stidham said. “She stepped in and did her job. She knew when to settle Schrock down.
“She (Collet) played catcher in high school and was extremely comfortable by the time the World Series came around. She showed a lot of maturity as a freshman and was a big-time asset.
“Couldn’t have went with anyone else behind the plate.”
The Bronchos knew early in the spring they could take it all.
“I’ve been to the national tournament twice and fell short,” Stidham noted. “When we got there, we weren’t going to settle.”
With the national championship trophy conquest, Central Oklahoma set a softball record in wins with 51.