NEW HORIZONS: Rock Valley wins unprecedented sixth NJCAA title, Madison & Kankakee bow out early

(Photo courtesy of Rock Valley College Athletics)
(Photo courtesy of Rock Valley College Athletics)

The path to the title may have been different, but in the end the Rock Valley College softball team made history by winning its sixth straight NJCAA Division III National Championship to become the first program in any division to accomplish the feat. In a rematch of last year's title game, the top-seeded Golden Eagles up-ended #2-seeded Herkimer Community College (NY) by a 6-1 final in a decisive, winner-take-all championship game #2 in Rochester, Minnesota. The title run capped a 57-13 season to mark the program's third consecutive 50-win campaign.

The Golden Eagles won their tournament opener handily with an 8-0 victory in five innings over #8-seeded Suffolk County Community College (NY/19-16), and then duplicated it with another 8-0 win in five innings against #5-seeded Onondaga Community College (NY/37-13) to reach the national semifinals. There Rock Valley College suffered a rare national tournament loss, taking a 9-6 setback against last year's runner-up and #2-seeded Herkimer Community College (NY). The loss sent the reigning champs into an elimination game with #3-seeded Brookdale Community College (NJ/45-11) in a second semifinal. The Golden Eagles survived with a 4-2 win, setting up a rematch with Herkimer CC (48-8). In need to back-to-back wins over the Generals, RVC did just that with a resounding 21-6 decision in Game 1 and a 6-1 tally in the winner-take-all Game 2.

Sophomore pitcher Breanna Crown completed an unprecedented run with a seven-inning effort in the circle to claim NJCAA Tournament Most Valuable Player and Most Outstanding Pitcher honors. She held Herkimer to six hits and struck out six. Courtney Fernette went 2 for 4 in the final and amassed ten hits over six games to earn NJCAA Tournament Offensive MOP. Paige Webster, Cadyn Ehrenberg, Emily Perkins, and Cara Alexander were named to the NJCAA All-Tournament Team. Head coach Darin Monroe received Coach of the Tournament for a sixth straight year.

Madison College and Kankakee Community College competed at the NJCAA Division II Softball Championships in Clinton, Mississippi, for a second consecutive season. Both teams dropped their opening games, with the #8-seeded WolfPack falling 6-3 to #9-seeded Johnson County Community College (KS/27-14) and the #13-seeded Cavaliers losing a 7-2 contest to #4-seeded Highland Community College (KS/35-12). Now in the loser's bracket, Madison College recovered to defeat #16-seeded Hagerstown Community College (MD/36-11) by a 5-1 county, however, Kankakee Community College had their season close with a 4-0 loss to #12-seeded Louisburg College (NC/38-11). Later that same day, the 'Pack's season also ended as they fell by a 12-9 score to #7-seeded Kirkwood Community College (IA/54-17). Madison College posted a 42-12 record and Kankakee Community College was 32-20-1.