ETTRICK, VA – Her team still down by two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning, Winston-Salem State head coach LaTanya Hilliard-Gray pulled her team over and had one simple point to make. “This is what we do,” she said. And with that, in the midst what looked like an improbable comeback, the Rams made that improbable a reality, scoring five runs in their last at-bat to stun Chowan 7-6 and win the 2011 CIAA Softball Championship on Saturday.
“All we had to do was believe the way I believe in them,” said Hilliard-Gray.
In a fitting manner, it was a Lady Ram senior who came up big for the team to score the big win. With three runs in and the bases still loaded with two outs, WSSU senior outfielder Candace Spinks hit a rocket toward Chowan shortstop Fahren Munro. The sharp grounder got by Munro for an error and bounded into left-center field, allowing two runs to score, including the game-winner. “My seniors have been here for the last three years and have not been able to compete for a championship and this is our going away gift to them,” Hilliard-Gray added.
The championship was a huge accomplishment for the Winston-Salem State Lady Rams as the 2011 season was the first time that the team was eligible to compete for a conference championship. “It means everything. Before [WSSU sophomore infielder Britney] Cato scored [the game-winning] run, I was out there on the field crying,” WSSU senior catcher Kayla Woodbury said. “It’s a really big deal and I’m just happy that I had a chance to be a part of it and set the tone for years to come.”
Only moments earlier, Chowan outfielder Alex Allen appeared to have come up with her second eighth inning, game-winning hit of the day. She had slapped a single to right field to score the go-ahead run, sparking a four-run rally as Chowan (34-19) took what seemed like an insurmountable 6-2 lead to the bottom half of the inning after using six hits and two Winston-Salem State errors to take control.