Central Methodist Walks Off with Gold Bracket Championship at the NFCA NAIA Leadoff Classic

COLUMBUS, Ga. – With a comeback eight-inning victory, Central Methodist claimed the Gold Championship of the NFCA NAIA Leadoff Classic with a 6-5 victory over Auburn Montgomery in the title game at South Commons Softball Complex.

Campbellsville (6-1) topped the field in the Silver Bracket, while Georgia Gwinnett (9-4) earned the Copper Bracket crown. 

Finishing the tournament 5-1, the Eagles (also 5-1 for the season) tied the game when Hannah Blackmon hit a solo home run with one out in the bottom of the seventh. After holding the Warhawks (7-2) scoreless in the top of the eighth, they loaded the bases with one out, and Bri Boatwright hit a soft liner that fell just out of the reach of the shortstop for the game-winning walkoff single. AUM trailed 4-1 after the first inning, but chipped away at the deficit with a run in the second and third, and two in the fourth to grab its first lead of the game, 5-4. The lead would last until one out in the seventh when the comeback started.

In the semifinals, Central Methodist rallied from a 9-2 deficit in the seventh inning and Lindie Adair capped off the eight-run comeback with a walk-off single in the 10-9 win over LSU-Alexandria (9-3). During the seventh, the Eagles recorded seven hits and took advantage of three walks. The Generals grabbed the big lead by scoring five in the first and a single run in the third, fourth, fifth and seventh innings.

In the other semifinal, Auburn-Montgomery outlasted Lindsey Wilson, 8-4, in a three-hour-and-15-minute marathon. The Tigers scored four runs in the top of the ninth to secure the victory and advance. The Blue Raiders’ Chelsea Showers rallied them twice with two-run home runs in the fifth and seventh innings, but they could not mount one last rally in the bottom of the ninth. 

Campbellsville claimed the Silver Championship Bracket with a 9-0 five-inning victory over Belhaven (9-5). The Tigers recorded eight hits and Neely Quint tossed a two-hit shutout with three strikeouts. After single runs in the first and second innings, the Tigers extended their lead to 5-0 in the fifth courtesy of Hailey Szpila’s three-run round tripper and closed out the scoring with a four-run fourth, highlighted by another three-run long ball by Kristin Benton.

The Tigers edged William Carey (7-6), 5-3, while Belhaven defeated Park, 7-3 to advance to the title game. Emily Todd homered for the Blazers against the Pirates, while Adrean Jordan doubling twice and knocking in a run for the Tigers.

In the Copper bracket, Bellevue (1-4) picked up its first win of the season with a 2-1 nailbiter over Friends in the consolation final. In the Copper Championship, Georgia Gwinnett rolled to a 12-1 victory over Oklahoma Baptist in six innings. The Grizzlies recorded nine hits, including a grand slam by Alycia Fields, who finished with five RBI.

In the gold consolation final, Thomas jumped out to a 6-0 lead over the first three innings and cruised to a 10-1 win over Reinhardt. Rachel Hoeft started the scoring with a two-run home run in the first and added to the lead with back-to-back RBI singles by Hoeft and Nadal in the third. They closed out the scoring with four runs in the seventh. Hoeft went 3-for-4 with three RBI and two runs scored. Amanda Ruthkowski homered for the Eagles.

Thomas and Reinhardt reached the gold consolation final picking up 13-8 and 12-3 (in six innings) triumphs over USC Beaufort (9-2) and Ave Maria (7-12), respectively. The slugfest between the Sand Sharks and Bears featured nine long balls, three off the bat of USCB’s Amanda Brown and two more from Maddie Byrd and one off the bat of Mariah Sanborn. For the Bears, Carmen Nadal, Chelsea Carter and Kelsey Connolly left the yard. A seven-run third catapulted the Eagles to a 12-3 run-rule win over the Gyrenes. Trailing 3-0, Reinhardt scored 12 unanswered runs with the final two coming on Balli Willis’ home run.

The Lynx and Warriors advanced to the silver consolation finals with 4-2 and 4-3 victories over William Woods (3-8) and Olivet Nazarene (1-4), respectively. In the final, Corban defeated Lindenwood-Belleville, 8-0 in five innings. The Warriors broke open the game with a seven-run fourth highlighted by two-run double by Rae Dorras and two-run home run by Jaslyn Rush. Serena Boyd scattered four hits and struck out three to earn the complete game shutout.