WALESKA, Ga. - Taylor softball succumbed to No. 12 Biola 4-1 on Tuesday to conclude the 2014 season, but not after winning in extra-innings 4-3 over Georgetown in the programs' first ever NAIA Tournament victory.
The Trojans came out on top over Georgetown in what was an extremely competitive matchup, adding a run in the bottom half of the eighth inning on a walk-off double from senior Karon Earley.
"Karon has been so good for us for four years," said head coach Brad Bowser. "It had to have been the highlight of her career, and that hit gave us our first national championship win, which is big for the program."
Taylor bounced back after being one out away from the win in the seventh inning before Georgetown rallied to tie the game at three all. Ashley Miller, the starting pitcher who earned the win with a complete game performance in the circle, got the Trojans going with a single down the left field line to start the bottom half of the eighth inning. Mackenzie Hiers came in to pinch-run for Miller and was advanced to second by a beautiful sacrifice bunt from Micaela Christensen, setting the stage for Earley's heroics to score Hiers.
The sophomore Miller was strong against a quality Georgetown team, pitching all eight innings and allowing just three runs on six Tiger hits while walking three and striking out four.
It was a big game for Earley who, in addition to the walk-off double, drove in the go-ahead run in the sixth inning on a sacrifice fly. Earley finished 2-3 with two RBI, Alex Lovelace was 3-4 with an RBI, and Miller was 2-4 to highlight the Trojan offense. Anna Gunderson was also 1-3 with an RBI, Christensen was 1-3 with a run scored, and Morgan Allison was 1-3 with a walk and two runs scored.
Taylor finished its remarkable season after the 4-1 loss to No. 12 Biola, fighting until the final out.
"It was great for us to compete the way that we did against this competition," said Bowser. "The two losses (in the opening round) to Biola showed us that we are able to compete at this level. It gave us a lot of confidence, and knowing that you're not going to win every game, you can be proud and hold your head high either way."
The young Trojan squad will be returning the majority of its players for the 2015 season, as they will look to continue to add to the accomplishments from a great year. Taylor seniors Emily Tweedy, Karon Earley, Jordan Broomfield, and Caitlin Vukorpa concluded their careers with a historic season.
"These seniors came in with me as freshman when I began to coach at Taylor," added Bowser. "They've been amazing. They all are high character, high integrity people, and they have worked hard every day. I'm glad we finally got over the top in their senior season."
Taylor finishes the 2014 campaign with a record of 42-17, the best record for a season in the history of the program. In the Crossroads League, Bowser was named Coach of the Year and freshman Lovelace was named Player of the Year. The Trojans set season school records in team batting average, runs scored, hits, home runs, and RBI, among others. Taylor also won its first ever regular season league title, its first league tournament title since 1999, and capped it all off with the dramatic win over Georgetown on the national stage.