Trailing the top-seeded McKendree three games to one, Sam Houston fought back. The Kats, using a lineup that included two freshmen and a sophomore, took games five and six, to force a decisive game 7.
Despite some early misses, the Bearkats pushed McKendree to the 10th frame before falling short.
“I think we have the kind of team that doesn’t quit,” said junior Heather Penatzer. “We knew we were capable of getting on a roll and we just wanted to keep putting pressure on them.”
The day started out strong for the Bearkats, in an elimination match against Arkansas State. The Kats opened game one with five strikes in the first six games and never looked back, knocking off the Red Wolves 4-0 to get into the semifinals.
“I really liked the way we finished the day yesterday and thought if we could continue that we could get on a roll,” said head coach Brad Hagen. “We hit some big shots early and were able to ride the momentum.”
The appearance in the semifinals is the third in the last four years for the Bearkats, reaching this same spot in 2015 and then during their national championship run in 2014.
Sam Houston will graduate a pair of seniors, Randi Speiler and Janine Kuwahara, who has been a three-time All-American and the recipient of the prestigious Elite 90 Award given out to the top academic student athlete at the championship.
“Janine and Randi have been a big part of getting our program, especially Janine who has been part of this run for the last four years,” Hagen said. “Today was probably one of the youngest lineups I could have put out there, and I like what we have coming back. I think we have a chance to be right back here next year with a chance to win it.”