HIGH FIVE: Rock Valley captures fifth consecutive NJCAA title, Madison finishes among top six

(Photo courtesy of NJCAA.org)
(Photo courtesy of NJCAA.org)

The Rock Valley College softball became the third school to ever win five consecutive NJCAA national championships, and the first to do it at the Division III level, with a 6-2 win over Herkimer County Community College (NY) at the NJCAA Division III Softball National Championships in Rochester, Minnesesota, on May 19. The Golden Eagles also become the first DIII program to win five championships, breaking a tie with the College of DuPage at four. Meanwhile, the Madison College softball team put together three impressive wins to finish in the top six during its first-ever appearance at the NJCAA Division II National Championships in Clinton, Mississippi, while Kankakee Community College was eliminated with two early losses.

Despite not entering the tournament as the number one seed for the first time since 2013, second-seeded Rock Valley College blanked #7 Suffolk County Community College (NY) 8-0 and then doubled up Brookdale Community College (NJ) by a 10-5 final to reach the championship series. In the first of three games against the top-seeded Generals, RVC rallied with runs in the sixth and seventh innings to win 2-1. After Herkimer returned from the loser's bracket, the Golden Eagles lost by the same 2-1 score to set up a winner-take-all third game. Trailing 2-1, Rock Valley put up a five-run fifth inning to take control of the game and claim their fifth straight title. Freshman Jordan Hall was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player and Most Outstanding Pitcher, while sophomore Annaka Bartz was selected Most Outstanding Offensive and Defensive Player. Bartz, sophomores Emily Cox and Michaela Spanbauer, and freshman Courtney Fernette were named to the All-Tournament Team. Coach Darin Monroe earned his fifth NJCAA DIII National Coach of the Year honor. The Golden Eagles finish the year 52-9.

After winning the first region title in program history, Region IV DII District B champ Madison College was the #11-seed to begin play at the NJCAA DII National Championships, but suffered a 3-0 loss to #6 Cowley College (KS). The WolfPack rebounded with a 10-0 win over #14 Mercer County Community College (NJ), a 5-4 upset of #5 Kirkwood Community College, and a 5-4 victory against #10 Johnson County Community College (KS), the last two coming in dramatic fashion. Down to the final six, the 'Pack bowed out of the tournament with a hard-fought 8-6 loss to #3 LSU-Eunice. Madison College finished the year 52-10.

District C champion Kankakee Community College was awarded the #12 seed, and lost its opener 17-0 in five innings against #5 Kirkwood Community College. The Cavaliers were then eliminated with an 11-7 setback against #13 Pitt Community College (NC), ending their 19th consecutive appearance at the national tournament. Kankakee went 27-24 on the year.