It’s not always the best team, it’s the team that plays best.
Southeastern’s LadyStorm softballers just completed a post-season run that finished at No. 3 in the NCAA Division II College World Series.
Nobody saw that coming after coach Ron Faubion’s young ladies were swept in the finals of the Great American Conference tournament.
Coach Faubion said, “We were overachievers this year. We got hot at the right time and showed we could play with anybody. Our kids seemed to always rebound after tough losses and that’s what we did after the disappointment in the conference tournament.”
Defense was the key to Southeastern’s 45-20 season, the third GAC season of 40 or more victories. Strength up the middle is the goal of every coach, but it’s difficult to achieve.
Southeastern defined strength up the middle this year. Catcher (true freshman Conner Harmon improved consistently from her first game), pitcher (senior Mindy McElroy, 29-12 and the GAC Pitcher of the Year), sophomore second baseman (Jessica Simmons, GAC Player of the Year and third-team Daktronics All-America), shortstop (junior Haley Strawn (All-National Tournament Team) and center field (sophomore Sydney Kramer, second-team All-Region).
The LadyStorm compiled a .304 team batting average with 91 doubles, six triples, 39 home runs and 313 runs batted in. From day one, the Storm kept the pressure on defenses by constantly running. Whether stealing bases, taking extra bases, bunting runners over, opponents were forced to play perhaps a step or two out of normal position.
Timely hitting, combined with long-ball punch from junior-to-be outfielder Laramie Beal (11 home runs, 55 runs batted in), Strawn (seven homers, 39 RBIs), Courtney Riddle (junior-to-be outfielder, five home runs, 30 RBIs), Simmons (three homers, along with 29 doubles and three triples).
Defensively, the Storm posted a 3.57 earned-run average with McElroy’s 2.71 leading the way. She also turned in 18 complete games and worked 253 innings.
Simmons (.413), Beal (.395), Kramer (.372) and Strawn (.358) were leaders in batting average.
The Storm will return a nucleus of 11 players in key positions.
Losses include McElroy and third-baseman Lacie Cook (honorable mention All-GAC). Cook took away the left-side bunt while recording 184 assists, second only Strawn’s 185.
Returnees for 2015: Simmons, Beal, Kramer, Strawn, Harmon, Riddle, Arianna Jones (outfielder/first baseman), Darrian Williams (outfielder), Jacee Bennett (pitcher), infielder Megan Birchfield and infielder/runner Shaina Crites.
Williams (left field) and Riddle (right field) were both injured and missed lots of playing time. Williams dislocated her left shoulder hitting the fence to make a catch and played in just 27 games. Riddle tore up an ankle when she stepped on the first baseman’s foot (on the bag) trying to beat out an infield hit. She played 48 games, most as a designated hitter because she couldn’t run.
Faubion said, “We got into the regionals as the No. 7 seed and needed some things to happen for us with other teams winning or losing. Had that not happened for us, we wouldn’t have even gone to the regionals.
“You have to play well and you have to be lucky. Playing well alone isn’t always enough. Things fell right for us and we took advantage of it.
“We’ve been fortunate to have several great teams over the years. This team would be in the top five in personal satisfaction. We were able to play through some adversity. We lost two starting corner outfielders (Riddle and Williams) and were still able to move some people around and make it work.
“We didn’t have a lot of power, but we did the little things well. We kept the pressure on by running and made some of our own breaks.
“Our kids never quit, never thought they weren’t good enough to play at the top level. I couldn’t be any more proud of them.”
Fall ball will be here before you know it and the difference of just one year could mean taking the last big step.
Faubion said, “Our goal is always to win the conference and go all the way to the World Series and win it. You can talk about it all you want, but there’s nothing like having your kids experience it.
“You see the polls and read about teams with high averages and lots of home runs and great pitching records. You actually have to play these teams before your players realize they really can compete with them. “We took that step of competing with them this season and it can do nothing but help us in 2015.”
2014 LadyStorm softball in the Great American Conference
45-20 (28-11 GAC)
Won GAC regular-season
Reached Finals in GAC tournament (Bentonville, Ark.)
Received at-large berth in Central sub-Regional (Mankato, Minn.)
Won sub-Regional, defeated Emporia (Kan.) State in if-necessary game
Won Central Super Regional (Sioux Falls, S. D.) by sweeping Augustana College in two games
NCAA D-II World Series
Won 2 games, lost two games
Finished third in World Series
Finished No. 4 in final national poll
Defeated No. 11 Minnesota State- Mankato
Lost to No. 14 St. Mary’s (Texas)
Lost to No. 15 Dixie State (Utah)
Lost to No. 16 Valdosta State (Georgia)
Defeated No. 18 Emporia State
Defeated No. 19 Armstrong Atlantic
Defeated No. 23 Augustana College (S.D.)
2014 Honors Great American Conference
Mindy McElroy, senior – Pitcher of the Year
Jessica Simmons, sophomore – Player of the Year
Ron Faubion – Coach of the Year (second in a row)
(Southeastern the first team to take Pitcher of the Year and Player of the Year in the same year)
First team All-GAC
Mindy McElroy, pitcher
Jessica Simmons, second baseman
Haley Strawn, junior shortstop
Second team, All-GAC
Sydney Kramer, sophomore center fielder
Laramie Beal, sophomore right fielder
Lacie Cook, senior third baseman
2014 GAC Softball Players of the Week
1st week – Laramie Beal
6th week – Mindy McElroy
7th week – Jessica Simmons
10th week – Haley Strawn
12th week – Jessica Simmons
2014 Daktronics All-Region teams
2014 All-Central Region teams
2014 NFCA All-Region teams
2014 All-National Tournament team
2014 Daktronics All-America teams
Note: The Great American Conference has just completed its third year. Southeastern has posted records of:
2012 – 40-16 (22-6)
2013 – 45-9 (25-3)
2014 – 45-20 (28-11)
130-45 overall (74.3%)
75-20 GAC (78.9%)
Southeastern has reached the finals of all three conference tournaments, winning in 2013
Southeastern has won the regular-season championship the last two years (2013 and 2014)
Southeastern has won two Pitcher of the Year awards:
2013 - Jacee Bennett, sophomore
2014 - Mindy McElroy, senior
Southeastern has won one Player of the Year award
2014 - Jessica Simmons, sophomore
Southeastern has won two Coach of the Year awards:
2013 - Ron Faubion
2014 - Ron Faubion