Grace’s NCCAA World Series Run Comes to End

May 14th, 2015

Pictured is Alex Shipley pitching this week in Virginia. Photo credit: Paul DeRenzo

Grace’s softball team saw its sparkling 2015 season reach a conclusion on Thursday in the 2015 NCCAA World Series.

The Lady Lancers (32-27) fell 2-1 in the seventh inning to the No. 1 seed Judson, eliminating Grace from the double-elimination tournament. Thursday’s loss marked the first time since April 3 (34 games) that Grace scored less than three runs.

The Lady Lancers enjoyed a season of superlatives under head coach Heather Johnson. Grace had its first 30-win season in 21 years and its first winning season in 18 years. The 2014 and 2015 campaigns marked the first consecutive national tournaments in program history, and Grace also tied for the program record with 19 league victories. Statistically, Grace set the record for most doubles (88) and RBIs (317) in a season.

Grace, who scored three runs in the first inning of both games on Wednesday, looked to continue that trend against Judson. The Lady Lancers loaded the bases with two walks and a single in the top of the first, but the side was retired with a strikeout.

The game remained scoreless through the first three innings. Judson finally broke through the strong pitching of Hannah Adams, using a double, a bunt and a single to take a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth.

Grace’s offense, which came into the game averaging over 6.0 runs/game, struggled to pick up momentum after the first inning. The Lady Lancers did not move a baserunner past first base between the second and fifth innings.

Momentum swung back to Grace’s side in the top of the sixth. Samantha Johnson and Chandler Elliott singled, and Ashley Kleinbub placed a single down the left-field line. Johnson turned the corner at third and beat the throw at home to tie the game at 1-1. The Lady Lancers still had runners on second and third with one out, but Grace was unable to plate the go-ahead run with two strikeouts.

The Eagles threatened to take the lead in the bottom of the sixth, loading the bases with two outs. But Alex Shipley, who came in as a relief pitcher in the fifth inning, got the final batter to ground out to Brittany Turner.

Grace was poised to pull ahead in the top of the seventh, loading the bases with two singles and a walk. But Elliott grounded out to third to preserve the 1-1 tie. The Eagles made the Lady Lancers pay in the bottom of the seventh, using three straight hits to win the game in walkoff fashion, 2-1.

Elliott and Johnson each batted 2-for-4, and Knight was 1-for-2 with two walks. Adams pitched four strong innings to start the game and allowed four hits and one run, and Shipley tossed the final innings in relief.

Brooke Shell graduates as the program’s most prolific offensive player. She leaves Grace as the career leader in hits, runs, batting average, triples and stolen bases.

Shell set the single-season record in 2015 for most runs scored with 65, and Elliott tied the single-season mark with 56 RBIs.

Grace advances to second day of NCCAA World Series

May 14th, 2015

Despite falling into the loser’s bracket of the 2015 NCCAA World Series, Grace’s softball team stayed alive to reach day two of the tournament.

After narrowly losing 7-6 to No. 4 Oklahoma Christian in the opening round on Wednesday, the Lady Lancers (32-26) won an elimination game 7-5 against Central Baptist in the nightcap.

Grace advances to play No. 1 Judson at noon on Thursday after the top-seeded Eagles were bounced in the opening round. As long as Grace wins, the Lady Lancers will play again at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Thursday.

The opening game could not have started better for Grace. Brooke Shell reached second base on the first at-bat, and Samantha Johnson laced a triple to drive in the game’s first run. Ashley Kleinbub then stepped up and belted a two-run home run, propelling Grace to an early 3-0 lead.

Oklahoma Christian threatened to respond in the bottom of the inning with runners on second and third and nobody out. But Chandler Elliott pitched her way out of a jam with two pop outs and a strikeout.

The Eagles (30-19) made good on their chances in the second inning, scoring four to take a one-run lead. OCU use a two-run homer of its own to spark its rally. The Eagles tacked on another run in the third to lead 5-3.

In the top of the fourth, Hannah Herbster and Brittany Melzoni led off the inning with singles. Herbster came home to score off the bat of Morgan Hutcheson. Clarissa Knight then drilled a two-out, two-run double up the middle to put Grace back on top 6-5.

Grace’s lead was short-lived, however, as the Eagles struck back with two in the bottom of the fourth. After an offensive showcase in the first four innings, defense took over down the stretch. Neither side could produce another run over the final three innings as OCU held on to win 7-6.

Herbster and Melzoni each batted 2-for-3 with a run scored. Kleinbub hit 1-for-3 with a run and two RBIs, and Hutcheson had a run and an RBI as well.

In the second game of the day, Grace staved off elimination with a 7-5 win over Central Baptist.

The Lady Lancers repeated their first inning from the opening game with a three-run outburst. Shell and Johnson hit safely to start the inning, and Knight drove them both home with a single. Later in the inning, Knight scored off the bat of Chelsea Whitesell.

The Mustangs (22-17) closed the gap to 3-2 in the top of the second, but Grace pounded out four more runs in the bottom of the second to take a commanding 7-2 lead. Brittany Melzoni blasted a solo home run, Johnson executed a perfect squeeze bunt to score Hutcheson, and Shell and Johnson later plated in the inning.

CBC fought back to within 7-5 with a three-run sixth inning, but that would prove to be the high point of the game for the Mustangs. Shipley shut down CBC in the seventh inning with a three-up, three-down performance to record the save.

Johnson hit 2-for-3 with two runs and an RBI, and Shell was 1-for-2 with two runs. Knight drove in two runs and scored once.

Grace Ready to Tackle NCCAA World Series

May 11th, 2015

The stage has been set for Grace’s softball team at the 2015 NCCAA World Series.

The Lady Lancers received the No. 5 seed in the 10-team tournament. Grace opens tournament play on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. against No. 4 Oklahoma Christian, an NCAA Div. II school with a record of 28-19.

With a win Grace would advance to Thursday and the semifinals of the winner’s bracket in the double elimination tournament. A loss means Grace would play again on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in the loser’s bracket.

The complete tournament field is as follows: No. 1 Judson (Ill.), No. 2 Simpson (Calif.), No. 3 Lee (Tenn.), No. 4 Oklahoma Christian, No. 5 Grace, No. 6 Southern Wesleyan (S.C.), No. 7 Central Baptist (Ark.), No. 8 Mississippi College, No. 9 Oklahoma Wesleyan, No. 10 Cedarville (Ohio).

Grace finished fourth in last year’s tournament, advancing to the final day of competition. The World Series is held at the Botetourt Sports Complex.

Participating teams will perform a community service project in Botetourt County on Tuesday before enjoying the national tournament banquet on Tuesday evening.

Grace College and Seminary Holds 2015 Commencement Ceremony

May 7th, 2015

As the 2014-2015 school year draws to a close, Grace College and Seminary will be holding a commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 9 at 9 a.m. at the Ronald and Barbara Manahan Orthopaedic Capital Center. The ceremony will include an invocation by Rev. Jeffrey A. Patton, lead pastor at the Grace Brethren Church in Norwalk, California; an institutional welcome by William J. Katip, president at Grace College; and a benediction by John F. Carini, a physician in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. A brass ensemble, directed by Eric Criss, will be performing at the commencement services, as well as a the Lancer Chorus, directed by Thomas Hall.

This year, Grace asked the senior class to select a faculty member to appear as a special guest speaker during the commencement ceremonies. The students selected Roger Stichter, accounting and finance professor at Grace.

For the 2015 Commencement, Dr. Katip has chosen Dr. Paulette Sauders, the faculty member who has served Grace the longest, to carry the ceremonial mace. Carrying the mace is a great honor and is traditionally borne by someone who has been singled out for tribute.

During the ceremony, Grace will also be honoring Dr. Paulette Sauders for 50 years of service at Grace as a professor of English and journalism. Only three others have reached this esteemed milestone at Grace (Dr. Homer Kent, Jr., Ron Henry and R. Wayne Snider), but Sauders is the first faculty member to accomplish this while still actively teaching full-time. In addition to serving as a faculty member in the Languages, Literature and Communication Department (where she’s taught 17 different courses), Sauders taught in the Grace prison program for 16 years and served as a leader for Women of Grace for 40 years. Sauders has been the chair of the department since 2003 and for four decades has served as an advisor to the school newspaper, “The Sounding Board.”

With its new “Measure of Grace” initiative, underway this year, Grace is working to keep its undergraduate degrees affordable and incentivize student persistence and completion. Effective this coming fall of 2015, Grace will reduce the cost of tuition by nine percent for traditional students on the main campus. In addition, once a student enrolls, his or her tuition will never be raised; instead, each consecutive year students attends Grace, they will receive an additional $500 off their tuition. This can amount to an additional $3,000 savings. This is part of Grace’s continuing commitment to pursuing excellence and affordability for more and more students.

Grace duo sweeps NCCAA Player of Week awards

May 6th, 2015

Pitcher of the week, Alex Shipley.

Player of the week, Chandler Elliott.

Alex Shipley and Chandler Elliott gave Grace’s softball team a sweep from the NCCAA for Player of the Week awards.

Shipley was named the NCCAA Pitcher of the Week, and Elliott was the Player of the Week following the Lady Lancers’ run in the Crossroads League Tournament.

Shipley impressed from the mound, posting a 1.47 ERA in three postseason games. Her highlight of the week was throwing a complete-game 9-inning victory over No. 25 Marian to eliminate the Knights from the league tournament. Marian came into the game ranked No. 5 in the nation in hits and team batting average, but Shipley handcuffed Marian to eight hits in nine innings, striking out six batters in the process. She also threw two scoreless outings in relief against St. Francis and Taylor (RV-NAIA).

Elliott was an offensive machine last week, hitting .565 with 13 hits in 6 games. She scored five runs, doubled twice and homered once. She played four games against the top three teams in the league (IWU, Marian, Taylor) and hit 11-for-14 against those teams. Overall for the week, she finished with a slugging percentage of .783 with an on-base percentage of .583.

Grace will continue its season next week at the 2015 NCCAA World Series. The Lady Lancers will making their second-straight trip to the national tournament after finishing fourth last year. Grace is also enjoying its first 30-win season in 21 years.

Grace Softball Earns Place at NCCAA World Series

May 5th, 2015

Pictured is Grace's softball team shortly after punching its ticket to the 2015 NCCAA World Series

For the second time in two years, Grace’s softball team beat Cedarville to secure a berth to the NCCAA World Series.

The Lady Lancers (31-25) knocked off the host Yellow Jackets (33-24) in the NCCAA Midwest Regional Tournament by the score of 3-2, earning a repeat trip to Botetourt, Va., for the World Series. It marks the first time in program history that Grace has reached consecutive national tournaments.

Ashley Kleinbub and Clarissa Knight teamed up to create the heroic moment in extra innings for Grace. With the score knotted at 2-2, Knight led off the bottom of the eighth with a single. She stole second base and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Two batters later, Kleinbub laced the game-winning single to right field to score Knight and send the Lady Lancers into a state of euphoria.

“I think reaching the NCCAA World Series two years in a row legitimizes the direction this program is going. The girls were on fire yesterday, and today they were determined to do what was needed to win,” said Grace head coach Heather Johnson. “Our freshmen have really grown up which helps us out a lot. Brittany [Turner] won the game for us against Marian, and Ashley [Kleinbub] did it today. I couldn’t be prouder of this group.”

It took Grace six innings to get on the scoreboard against Cedarville. By that point, Cedarville had crept ahead 2-0 thanks to a run in the second and fifth innings.

The Lady Lancers were unable to score in a bases-loaded situation in the fifth, but Grace made good on its runners in the sixth. A sacrifice fly from Kati Gregory brought in Knight for Grace’s first run in the sixth. Hannah Herbster was up next with two outs, and the freshman stepped up with an RBI single to score Chandler Elliott and tie the game.

Neither team could score the go-ahead run in the seventh, setting the stage for Kleinbub’s walkoff winner in the eighth.

Elliott went the distance from the mound, tossing a five-hitter in eight innings. She walked just one batter in her 15th complete game of the season.

Both sides finished with five hits in a defensive clash.

“I’m really proud of our seniors [Brooke Shell and Chelsea Whitesell]. They get a lot of credit for pushing this team to a different level, and now they get to end their careers at a national tournament,” Johnson said. “A couple days of rest will be great for us to wrap up school and then just focus on playing softball.”

The bracket and tournament field for the 2015 NCCAA World Series will be released on Sunday. Grace placed fourth in last year’s tournament.

Trio of Lady Lancers Earn All-League Honors

May 4th, 2015

Pictured is All-League winner Brooke Shell high-fiving Grace's coach Heather Johnson.

Following a memorable regular season, the Lady Lancers’ softball team was honored with three members on the All-Crossroads League Team.

Brooke Shell and Clarissa Knight each earned First Team All-League recognition while Chandler Elliott was honorable mention for All-League.

Grace concluded its first winning regular season in 18 years under head coach Heather Johnson. The Lady Lancers also won their first league tournament game in 12 years this week when Grace upset No. 25 Marian.

Shell broke Grace’s career hits record on March 21 against Goshen, and the All-American senior did not look back. Shell is batting .435 with a team-leading 84 hits, 58 runs and 13 doubles. She currently ranks No. 2 in the NAIA in hits, No. 3 in at-bats, No. 15 in runs and No. 22 in triples.

She led the nation at one point by hitting safely in 24 consecutive games – a streak that was finally broken on Wednesday. She batted .463 in 36 league games.

Knight enjoyed a stellar sophomore regular season, pounding out a team-best .442 batting average. She also led Grace with five home runs and was second with 46 RBIs. Knight showcased her speed on the basepaths, going a perfect 14-for-14 on stolen base attempts.

Elliott impressed in her first season and was Grace’s No. 1 pitcher for the entire season. She tossed 142 innings from the mound – more than double any other pitcher on Grace’s staff. She posted a 4.34 ERA with 12 wins and 14 complete games to her credit. She also exceled at the plate, notching a .408 batting average. Her 13 doubles tied for the team lead; she currently leads Grace with 50 RBIs.

The Lady Lancers will try to qualify for their second straight NCCAA National Championships on Monday andTuesday with the NCCAA Regionals at Cedarville.

Rocchio Named to the All-League Team

May 4th, 2015

An impressive season from Grace’s Frank Rocchio was honored when the junior was named to the All-Crossroads League Baseball Team on Friday.

Rocchio was voted as the league’s top third baseman, earning a spot on the 17-player All-League Team. He won the league batting title, hitting .405 for the season. Rocchio was the only batter in the league to top .400 from the plate.

He led Grace with 53 hits, 11 doubles and 24 RBIs, posting a .511 slugging percentage. He also homered once, walked 10 times and scored 19 runs.

Grace Enjoys Successful NCCAA Championships

May 4th, 2015

Grace’s track and field team had a strong showing at this weekend’s NCCAA Outdoor National Championships.

The Lancers set three school records and had numerous top-10 finishes at the championship meet.

“I’m proud of the way we competed this weekend. Some people ran multiple races against very strong competition. We still managed a couple of school records and several personal bests, which is the most a coach can ask for,” said Grace head coach Jeff Raymond. “It was nice to see our seniors go out with strong performances. Heather House and Victoria Gimben produced personal bests and earned unexpected points for our team. Donovan [Graham] anchored our 4×400 relay to a school record to wrap up his fine career. Jenna McClellan worked back from foot surgery to help our 4×800 relay earn a place.”

Competing in the first decathlon of his career, Nathan Brown impressed with a fourth-place showing of 5,795 points.

The women’s 4×400-meter relay team of Katelyn McCullough, Micah Pollard, Alicia Hertzler and Jo Boren broke the school record. The group placed fifth in a time of 3:57.47.

The men’s 4×400 foursome of Joel Zook, Lance Taylor, KeJuan Leek and Donovan Graham also had a strong showing by finishing sixth. The group set a school record in the preliminary race, crossing the finish line in a time of 3:18.97. Graham and Taylor also joined forces with Matthew Lee and Hunter Reed in the 4×800 to earn seventh place.

Pollard placed eighth in the 400 in 58.63 seconds, and Heather House set a PR in the 400 hurdles of 1:07.65 to finish seventh. Hannah Treadway was ninth in the shot put with a heave of 37-feet-3.25, and Victoria Gimben placed seventh in the high jump.

The women’s 4×800 squad of McCullough, Jenna McClellan, Emma Mitchell and Hertzler had an eighth-place showing at 9:56.91.

On the men’s side, Graham was ninth in the 800 in 1:56.28, and Tyler Back took seventh in the shot put. Macallister Seitz was sixth in the discus with a personal-best mark of 147-8.

Grace Softball Knocked Out of League Tourney

May 1st, 2015

Grace’s run in the Crossroads League Softball Tournament came to an end on Thursday.

The Lady Lancers (28-25) took down St. Francis 6-5 in an extra-inning thriller to start the day, but Taylor knocked Grace out of the tourney with a narrow 5-4 victory.

Out of the four tournament games Grace played in, three went to extra innings and all four were decided by one run. The Lady Lancers won their first league tournament games since 2003 this week. Grace now shifts its focus to qualifying for the NCCAA National Championships. The regional tournament will be held Monday and Tuesday at Cedarville.

Grace started the St. Francis game with authority, ripping off five runs in the top of the first inning. Brooke Shell led off the contest with a single and came around to score on a ground ball from Chandler Elliott. Ashley Kleinbub brought in another run with a single, and Grace loaded the bases with two outs. Alex Shipley singled which, coupled with a fielding error, cleared the bases for a 5-0 lead.

St. Francis had a five-run inning up its sleeve too, however. The Cougars (22-23) tied the game 5-5 in the third, plating all five runs with two outs.

Neither team could break the 5-5 deadlock over the next four innings, sending the game into extra innings for the third time in as many games for Grace.

In the top of the eighth, Clarissa Knight started the inning with a single. She then advanced to second on a wild pitch, and Elliott belted a timely double to give Grace a 6-5 lead.

Shipley took care of the rest from the mound. The junior struck out the first two batters and got the final one to pop out to Knight to win Grace’s second elimination game in a row.

Shell and Kleinbub were each 2-for-4 with a run scored, and Knight scored twice. Hannah Adams pitched three shutout innings of relief, and Shipley tossed the final two spotless innings.

While the Lady Lancers survived two elimination games in the double-elimination tournament, the gutsy Grace squad could not make it three in a row against Taylor.

Grace led 2-1 through three innings after Shipley’s two-out, two-RBI single in the second. But Taylor produced the decisive inning in the fourth, striking for four runs on four hits to lead 5-2. The Trojans (35-15) were beneficiaries of two Grace fielding errors during the inning.

The fifth inning saw Grace pull to within one run of Taylor. Knight doubled to plate Samantha Johnson, and Knight scored off a hit by Elliott. Grace still had two baserunners with one out in the inning, but the Lady Lancers were unable to tie the game. The Trojans made Grace pay; the Lady Lancers could not muster a runner in scoring position for the final two innings.

Elliott impressed with a 3-for-4 performance from the plate. Shipley pitched 3.1 innings in scoreless relief.