When Chelsea Bramlett previewed the 2022 season back in January, the third-year Northwest softball coach outlined two goals for her team.
“Our girls want to make the World Series," Bramlett said. "Offensively, we are looking as good as last year, but I think we're going to give those stats a run for their money this year...every team and every game provides us a constant battle, so I'm not so worried about records and things like that, but more about closing out close games and ultimately, making it farther through the postseason than we have before.”
With numerous records falling throughout the season, the second goal for Bramlett came true over the weekend, with Northwest defeating Northeast, 6-3, in the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament semifinals in Wesson. The win helped the Rangers lock up a bid into the NJCAA Division II Championship tournament and a 9-2 win against LSU Eunice on Sunday helped Northwest claim the Region 23 title, shattering two milestones never accomplished before in the program’s history.
With two tournament wins already under their belts against LSU Eunice and Northeast, the Rangers jumped out ahead 2-0 against the Tigers in the Saturday semifinal showdown. Northeast cut the lead in half in the bottom of the third, before the Rangers responded with another run in the fourth for a 3-1 lead.
A two-run double to left field in the bottom of the fourth helped Northeast tie the game at 3-3, before the Rangers broke free in the sixth with a pair of home runs from Saige Koczka and Kaitlyn Bednarek. Gabby Dickerson would then deliver a pair of strikeouts to end the bottom of the seventh, helping Northwest to the championship game.
Northwest finished with nine base hits in the contest, led by two each from Koczka, Laila Armstrong and Caylee Comer. Dickerson improved to 23-7 in the circle and delivered five strikeouts in 3.1 innings of relief.
Trailing 2-0 after three innings of Sunday’s championship bout against LSU Eunice, the Rangers flipped the script in the top half of the fourth inning with a five-run frame. The momentum was sparked by a single from Magnolia Heights alumnus Molly Harris, followed by a walk to Maddie Brower and a single from Comer. Then, Bednarek changed the game with a grand slam that catapulted Northwest to a 4-2 lead.
However, the Rangers were far from finished. After an LSU Eunice error and a single from Bailey Russell, Armstrong delivered an RBI-single past the shortstop to stretch the Northwest lead to 5-2.
After Dickerson kept the Bengals off the board in the bottom of the fourth, the Rangers continued to strike while the iron was hot, as Comer’s two-run homer to left field made it a 7-2 lead in the fifth. Armstrong and Koczka would bring across two more runs in the sixth, while Dickerson handled the Bengals in the final two frames, solidifying the 9-2 victory and the Rangers’ first region championship.
Northwest finished with eight hits in the victory, led by two apiece from Armstrong and Comer. Dickerson went the distance in the circle, improving her record to 24-7 on the season with a four-strikeout effort and only one earned run allowed.
With the 4-0 run in the Region 23 Tournament, Northwest improved to 35-13 overall, one win away from tying the program’s all-time record of 36 victories, set back in 2007. The Rangers will now await their seeding in the upcoming NJCAA Division II Championship, set for May 24-28 in Oxford, Ala.