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.
The email address for AC’s Sports Information Director is firstname.lastname@example.org.