Jakki Prater didn’t look like a player whose team just lost its biggest game in 21 years.
Sitting behind a microphone for postgame interviews following Central Missouri’s 4-1 loss to Adelphia (N.Y.) in the opening round of the NCAA Division II softball championship tournament Thursday night, the senior looked poised — almost excited — as she talked about the Jennies’ next game.
“I want to be back on the field (Friday),” Prater said with a smile.
Not much has come easy for the Jennies, 49-15, this season, and a national championship won’t either. Making its first championship tournament appearance since 1994, the team will get a day off Friday, then play California (Pa.) in an elimination game at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
“This whole season, we have put ourselves in lots of pressure situations,” Central Missouri coach Susan Anderson said. “And we’ve always stayed composed and poised and confident. We have great leadership on this team.
“This group, they will fight. Whenever they get in a tough situation, they get tougher. We’ll be ready for Saturday.”
The Jennies had limited opportunities offensively against Adelphia ace Lindsay Mapes, 19-9, Thursday night. She allowed six hits and struck out eight in the complete-game victory, with Central Missouri’s lone run coming on a Carlie Rose homer in the bottom of the seventh inning.
The Jennies had loaded the bases with no outs in the fourth inning, but couldn’t produce a run. And they got two hits in the seventh after Rose’s home run, but both were stranded when Ali Jo Rogers’ line drive to left-center field was caught for the game’s final out.
“It was a little frustrating, because we couldn’t figure out what she was throwing,” Prater said. “It just looked like it was right there every single time. I feel like if we would have been a little more focused at the plate, we would have connected and it would’ve been a completely different game.”
Central Missouri starting pitcher Katie Shockley, 27-7, battled through three rough innings, allowing two runs in the first and another in the third. She gave up a leadoff double in the top of the fourth inning, and her night was finished. Anderson handed the ball to Prater, who gave up one run on four hits the rest of the way.
It seems having their championship hopes on the line will be nothing more than another test of the Jennies’ resolve.
“We’ve talked about this since the very first practice of the season, that we were going to get to Oklahoma City,” Anderson said. “This is their dream, and they’re going to do whatever it takes to hopefully be in the finals on Monday.”