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NJCAA Championship Central
ST. GEORGE, Utah – Making the trek to Southern Utah and the NJCAA Softball Championship for the first time in five years, the Arizona Western College Lady Matadors (53-10) open as the ninth seed Wednesday evening when they lock up with Wallace Community College-Dothan (58-8) out of Alabama.
A 21-game win streak that began in January, carried throughout February, and landed in March—carried the Lady Matadors atop the ACCAC standings for much of the season. The Matadors maintained the top spot in the Region I Playoffs of Division I teams to earn the right to host the post-season tournament.
But after falling in the second round of the double-elimination tournament, the Mats road to St. George became longer in the final day.
After beating Pima for a second time, the Lady Mats overcame an early deficit against Central Arizona to force a deciding game against the Vaqueras. The Mats punched their ticket to St. George by evading a late threat from Central in which the tying run reached first and the winning run came to the plate.
The Matador’s method has remained atop the rankings and statistics with a combination of speed, power, and pitching finishing the regular season ranked 12th in the country and the top ten in many statistical categories. Arizona Western did not lose consecutive games all season to earn the ninth seed out of sixteen teams in Utah.
Their opponents are the Govs of Wallace-Dothan from Dothan, Alabama. Wallace-Dothan finished the season eighth in the polls and earned the eighth seed after tallying a 26-game win streak in the second half of the season.
The Govs emerge from the Southern Division of the 16-team Alabama Community College Conference, winning their division by five games. Wallace-Dothan is one of two representatives, along with Shelton State, out of Region 22 with the Govs earning the District I bid (Matadors, by contrast, are the Region I, District A representatives).
The first round match-up between the Govs and Matadors will be a classic match-up of the top pitching team in the country versus one of the most potent lineups in the NJCAA.
Wallace-Dothan’s 1.24 team ERA and 20 shutouts are tops in the NJCAA behind a pair of talented arms. Sophomores Mallie Brown and Baliee Dempsey won 27 and 25 games, respectively, in two very different ways.
Brown’s power numbers, 245 strikeouts in 206 innings, the fifth most total strikeouts in the country.
Dempsey, meanwhile, allowed just 142 baserunners (22 walks, 120 hits) in 176 innings limiting opponents to just 27 earned runs.
The Matador offense that will face off against them is filled with potent bats that combined to hit .400 through 63 games.
Table-setters Sabrina Garcia and Aylin Campa combined for 48 stolen bases while Danielle Burgos, Cassandra Valle and Andrea Cline combined to drive in 213 runs.
Neither team is lacking when they switch sides either. Matador starter Koryne Coddington leads the country with 30 wins (Brown is second with 27) and displayed heroics in the two wins over Central Arizona to reach the NJCAA Championship.
The Govs lineup is paced by Dempsey who leads the team with a .383 average and is second on the team with nine home runs. Hannah Peters’ 10 homers and 54 RBI both pace the squad. Hannah Popwell’s 31 stolen bases is the team high.
The winner of the first round will matchup with the winner of #1 Seminole State (OK) and #16 Shelton State (AL) Thursday at 2:30pm while the loser will play Thursday at 5:00pm (MDT).
The game is set for a 5:00pm (MDT) start in St. George –4pm back in Arizona—and will be streamed live on Youtube.com/AWCTV.
Arizona Western College is one of the top community colleges in Arizona. The college boasts partnerships with all three state universities that include face-to-face classes in Yuma.