Softball Team Clubs Way to National Title

The past year has been very successful for WVU athletics. The men's and women's basketball teams both went deep into the postseason, the football team won a share of the Big East Championship for the second straight year, and Greg Jones won his third national title in wrestling in four years. But the latest champion isn't a varsity team, rather the WVU club softball team.

Keep in mind this isn't a varsity team. They get no money from the athletic department, and basically pay their own way with travel and tournaments. Nevertheless, they have success on the field, capped off by winning the 2005 Club Softball National Championship.

"We've been playing for three and a half years, and we've always had a really good team," said volunteer head coach Mark Wilson.

The squad capped off a memorable run in the national tournament by defeating Kansas State 1-0 in last Saturday's championship game in Annapolis, Md. The team finished the season 19-4.

"We ended up going 0-0 into the seventh inning. Luckily we were the higher seed and were home, so we got to bat in the bottom of the seventh. Kristie Dunn got onto first base, and then Leah Summer pushed her to second. Whitnie Cayton hit a line drive to center, and Kristie Dunn never slowed down," recalled the proud head coach who is in his third season at the helm. "By the time the ball got to home plate, Kristie was well past it."

Things didn't start out well in the tournament, as the team dropped its opening game to Ohio. But they persevered, and strung together three straight victories, including Whitnie Cayton's no-hitter against North Carolina, to advance.

The morning after defeating the Tar Heels, Wilson's crew took out the University of Maryland, and followed that game up by defeating Washington, and Virginia to advance to the final against Kansas State.

Two seasons ago, the Mountaineers made it to the national tournament in Cincinnati, but didn't fare as well then. While in the River City though, Wilson said he knew that his team could improve and make it back to the national tournament.

"When they started the group, their goal was to get Division 1 softball at West Virginia," said Wilson. "I decided then and there that my goal was to win that tournament. Whether we got to Division 1 or not, our goal right now needs to be to win that tournament, and they bought into it. It's taken us this long to make the decision on whether we were a club, or a softball team. I think over the last two years they've decided they're a softball team."

Wilson's team has now reached his goal, and he hopes that their success will breed even more championships.

"I think now, with winning one, we'll just try to win another one. Maybe have a dynasty team I guess," said Wilson with a chuckle.

The coach also says he'll never forget the feeling when they won the national title.

"At the end of the game, and they knew they had won. It wasn't any difference to them that they were a club team. They just won the national tournament, and I couldn't have been prouder. I've had a smile on my face all week," summed up the head coach.

Club team or not, all Mountaineer fans should be proud to call the softball team what they really are: national champions.

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