Rhoads to Fruition - Messiah Captures First NCAA Softball Championship

Messiah College Captured its First NCAA Division III Softball Championship

Montclair, NJ (5/18/09) - Messiah College isn’t just a soccer champion anymore. Falcon freshman right-hander Jessica Rhoads (Dillsburg, PA) struck out 13 batters and Messiah tallied single runs in the fourth and seventh innings, defeating Coe College, 2-0, in the national title game of the 2009 NCAA Division III Softball Championship, hosted by Montclair State University at the MSU Softball Stadium.

Messiah (43-4) wins its third team national championship of the academic year, having previously won the men’s and women’s soccer crowns in the fall, and completed a perfect 8-0 run through the 2009 NCAA regional and championship brackets, despite entering the post-season unranked. It was the ninth team national championship in Messiah school history and its first in a sport other than soccer. The men’s soccer program has won six, with two in women’s soccer.

Head coach Amy Weaver, in her 12th year as head coach of the Falcons, earned her 300th career victory as her squad captured the national championship.

“It feels good to have our own national championship,” Weaver said. “We’ve been motivated by the success of our other teams. We wanted to do the same thing and it was a motivating force for us.”

“The entire team felt we were underestimated [by being unranked] and it motivated us. The entire team was motivated by that and we wanted to prove what we were about and they did.”

Coe, which defeated Gustavus Adolphus College earlier in the day, 4-2, to advance to its first national final, ends the year with a 41-13 record.

Coe head coach Bob Timmons had high praise for the Falcons. “They have a very nice team. [Rhoads] helps a lot because you don’t have to play a lot of defense when she’s out there. [Messiah] made every play that they needed to make and they hit the ball throughout their line-up. We were doing everything we could to get the tying run to second base. We were trying to force [Messiah] to execute, and they did.”

Messiah scored just nine runs in the four games of the championship—the third fewest runs ever scored by a team in the national event and only the third time a team has scored 10 runs or less en route to a crown. Messiah won the national title without the advantage of having an All-America selection on its roster.

“We felt like some of our kids were worthy of being national All-Americans,” Weaver said about winning the title without individual honors, “but we talked about this being a team effort all the way. We couldn’t get here without every single person on the team and we feel we won this because we are a team.”

While Rhoads (28-1) was not an All-American this year, she played that way throughout the tournament, striking out a staggering 53 batters versus five walks in 28.0 innings in four games. She threw 67 of 94 pitches for strikes in the victory, and struck out 12 of the 13 batters swinging, while scattering two singles.

Junior catcher Abby Bergakker (Grand Rapids, MI) belted her fourth homerun of the season in the top of the seventh inning to put the Falcons up 2-0 and threw out two runners attempting to steal. Rhoads, Bergakker, and freshman second baseman Abi Buchler (Fenwick Island, DE) were each selected to the NCAA All-Tournament Team for Messiah.

For the 17th-ranked Kohawks, freshman pitcher Ashlee Simon (Riverside, Iowa), senior pitcher/right fielder Sonja Schwenker (Burlington, Iowa) and junior MacKenzie Lang (Urbandale, Iowa) were tabbed to the All-Tournament Team.