BAMA BOUND: AC Softball Heading to National Tournament

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Lady Roadrunners Complete Remarkable Season Turnaround

Angelina College’s Lady Roadrunner softball team is headed for the NJCAA Division I National Tournament for the third time in the program’s history.

This year, however, may be the most unexpected national trip of them all.

AC’s ladies are headed to the World Series again after this past weekend’s performances in the Region XIV Conference Tournament in Bossier City, La. The Lady ‘Runners beat Paris College 4-3 in eight innings on Friday, hammered No. 16 Galveston College 11-4 on Sunday and capped the tourney with a thrilling 6-5 win over host team Bossier Parish Community College on Monday. Bailey Frenzel drove in a pair of runs in the first inning, Haley Primrose ripped an opposite-field two-run homer in the sixth and the pitching combo of Mia Gilmore, Morgan Louviere and Gianna Wade helped hold off a furious Lady Cavalier rally to send AC back to the national tournament.

But this team’s story isn’t just about winning the regional tournament.

It’s about a remarkable turnaround to the season.

The 2023 Lady Roadrunners entered the spring with more uncertainty than roster spots. A first-year head coach (Brette Kohring) with zero head coaching experience. An assistant coach in Tori Alverson, whose playing experience consisted of playing goalkeeper in soccer. A pitching coach, Mike Scoggin, who retired years ago – only to return in time to help a short-handed AC pitching staff find its groove in the circle.

A roster consisting of just 13 players in uniform.

And, of course, a less-than-stellar start to the season.

AC opened the year with a 3-6 record. The team didn’t even get to play its first game until Feb. 13 after having its first six games postponed or canceled altogether because of bad weather. The team struggled to find consistency, splitting series after series – usually losing the first game just to rebound in the second.

Then came the season’s low point: On March 25, the Lady ‘Runners dropped both games of a doubleheader at Coastal Bend Community College – a team that would win just four games in 2023. Not even a week later, AC fell at San Jacinto College in another sweep, leaving the Lady Roadrunners with a 12-19 record to start the month of April – and little signs of enough life to salvage the season.

After one particular home loss, Kohring said in the dugout – to no one in particular – “These girls are so talented. I just need to get them to believe it.”

Then something clicked. Noticeably.

The team went on an absolute tear, blowing through conference foes in convincing fashion, including wins over nationally ranked and conference-leading teams. The Lady ‘Runners went 9-2 for the rest of the regular season, then stormed through the regional tournament with three straight wins.

The last win sent them back to nationals, a goal Kohring said the team mentioned way back during the hard times.

What clicked? According to Kohring, nothing more than a realization that individual performances were not as important as the overall team results.

“There were times when players were hard on themselves for certain at-bats or plays, but they were looking more at how those results affected them as individuals,” Kohring said. “Finally, they started realizing how those sacrifice flies, those groundouts to advance runners and all the other team plays were helping us win games.

“I can’t say it was anything we coaches said. If I knew what it was, I’d never stop saying it. The girls just realized how good they are and how much they wanted to experience this kind of success.”

With the advancement to the national tournament, Kohring becomes the only coach in Angelina College Athletics history to take a team to nationals in her very first season at the helm. She’s completely familiar with the tournament, having played on the 2019 Lady Roadrunner team finishing as national runners-up.

It’s an experience she wants her team to enjoy to the absolute fullest.

“I learned from my trip to nationals that it’s not just about rankings or records,” Kohring said. “It’s about who’s playing the best softball every game.

“After everything, our girls have overcome this season, all I can ask them now is, ‘Why not us?’”

The 2023 NJCAA Division I Softball National Tournament will run from Wednesday, May 24 through Saturday, May 27 at Choccolocco Park in Oxford, Alabama.

The Lady Roadrunners on Friday will learn of their tournament seeding and first-round opponent.

Angelina College’s Lady Roadrunners and coaches pose with the trophies earned after the team punched its ticket to the NJCAA Division I National Tournament. AC beat host team Bossier Parish Community College 6-5 on Monday to earn its berth to nationals – the program’s third trip to the national tournament. (Gary Stallard/AC Athletics photo)
Bossier Parish officials present Angelina College head coach Brette Kohring (right) with the tournament championship plaque following Monday’s AC win over BPCC. Kohring becomes the first coach in Angelina College history to lead a team to nationals in her first season as a head coach. (Gary Stallard/AC Athletics photo)
Angelina College’s Haley Primrose gets a congratulatory hand slap from head coach Brette Kohring after Primrose’s two-run homer in Monday’s game against Bossier Parish Community College. The Lady ‘Runners beat the Lady Cavs 6-5 to earn a trip to the NJCAA Division I National Tournament in Oxford, Al. (Gary Stallard/AC Athletics photo)
Angelina College catcher Madi Baker and pitcher Gianna Wade embrace while teammates break out in celebration following the final out of Monday’s 6-5 Lady Roadrunner win over Bossier Parish Community College. The win sent the Lady ‘Runners to the NJCAA Division I National Tournament starting May 23 in Oxford, Alabama. (Gary Stallard/AC Athletics photo)

The email address for AC’s Sports Information Director is gstallard@angelina.edu.

Gary Stallard
Sports Information Director Gary Stallard, who also serves as a Liberal Arts Instructor, begins his eleventh season with Angelina College. Following a career as a U.S. Marine, Stallard completed his bachelor’s degree at Stephen F. Austin University, where he majored in English and Journalism. For more than 16 years, he has worked as a sports writer/columnist/photographer for the Lufkin Daily News; he continues to contribute free-lance articles on occasion. Stallard has won several awards for writing, including the Golden Hoops Award for basketball writing in 2003, Regional Sports Writer of the Year in 2004, and the Texas Press Association’s first-place award for column writing in 2007 and in 2014. He has also done basketball, football and baseball radio and live streaming play-by- play and color commentary for an ESPN affiliate. Currently Stallard serves as play-by-play broadcaster for AC basketball, baseball and softball games. Prior to arriving at Angelina College, Stallard taught English at Lufkin High School for four years. He currently teaches Developmental Writing classes at AC. He and his wife Susan live in Lufkin.

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