The Freed-Hardeman Lady Lion softball team advanced to the opening round of the NAIA national tournament at Oklahoma City University by winning the TranSouth/Gulf Coast unaffiliated group championship.
The Lady Lions did it the hard way, playing out of the losers’ bracket and winning five straight games to claim the championship. FHU (31-7) capped the bid with a 2-1 victory over Bethel (Tenn.) in the final game played in the long history of the TranSouth Conference. It was an exciting day for the team and Coach Todd Humphry in particular. Humphry restarted the program 13 years ago and, although there have been a few close calls, has never had the opportunity to play in the national tournament.
“It means a lot for our program,” he said. “We had a goal this year after last year’s close call [finished runner-up in the conference tournament] that we wanted nothing less than a trip to national tournament.”
Unfortunately, not everything went OK in Oklahoma. The Lady Lions lost in the opening round to Belhaven and dropped to the losers’ bracket. They then defeated Hastings, 9-2, but lost again, 9-2, to Belhaven, ending their stay in the double elimination tournament.
The Lady Lions, who had gone 14-0 in conference play, placed four players on the TranSouth All-Conference team, and Sarah Elizabeth Cousar received the conference’s pitcher of the year award. In addition, Humphry was named coach of the year.
Cousar, a junior from Covington, Tenn., dominated opponents in the regular season with a 22-2 record and a 0.96 ERA with 189 strikeouts. She received the most votes in the balloting process but, according to conference by-laws, could not take both pitcher and player of the year awards. An all-conference selection as well, she hit .365 with five home runs and 18 RBIs from the leadoff spot. Cousar was also named a second team NAIA All-American honoree.
Seniors Mercedes Norfork, Shelby Cummings and Amber Vansandt were also named to the all-conference team. Norfork hit a team-high .368 with 22 RBIs while Cummings hit .337 and led the team in on-base percentage at .458 on the strength of 21 walks. Vansandt hit .287 and led the team in RBIs with 23. She went 6 of 9 in national tournament play.