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June 2011

Lady Norse Reach National Championship Tournament


NEO A&M Lady Norse
Coach Eric Iverson (center) presents the Division I Region II Softball Tournament Championship Award to Dr. Jeff and Mrs. Donna Hale (right), the president and first lady of Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College.

After finishing the regular season with an impressive 48-11 record and winning a hard-fought Division I Region II softball tournament, Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College’s Lady Norse softball team found themselves on the precipice of another seasonal milestone. Head Coach Eric Iverson’s squad advanced to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Women’s Division I National Softball Tournament in St. George, Utah.

“This (season) has been a pretty amazing ride,” Iverson said. “We had a shaky start, but were able to pull it together with an impressive run and showed what this team is all about in the regional tournament. I couldn’t be more proud of these young ladies.”

The Lady Norse opened the regular season with five straight loses in the Blinn College Classic in Brenham, Texas. Over the course of their first five games, the Lady Norse mustered a mere 11 runs, while yielding an astounding 40 runs to their opponents. They lost two games each to both Blinn and Navarro colleges. The other loss came at the hands of Temple College to post a 0-5 opening record against colleges in the Lone Star state.

“Those Texas teams really beat us up in that opening tournament,” Iverson said. “It was not pretty. We were just not playing very good ball at the time, and it was a rude awakening, but our ability to overcome that start truly is a testament to the resiliency of this team.”

Iverson’s squad would rebound from their Texas troubles with an offensive explosion resulting in an astounding 31 game winning streak. The Lady Norse would win those 31 games by an average of almost six runs per game. The streak tied an NEO school record and earned Iverson, a 2009 National Junior College Athletic Association Hall of Fame inductee, his 700th career win along the way.

“I don’t care what sport you play, to win that many games truly is an amazing feat,” said NEO Interim Athletic Director Dustin Grover. “Eric is an inspiration to all of our coaches at NEO. He is one hell of a coach and a class act on and off the field.”

The winning streak ended April 4 when NEO traveled to Warner, Okla., to take on a tough Connors State College. The Lady Norse would fall to the Cowgirls in a 6-8 loss.

“What can I say? Connors is Connors. They always play us tough,” Iverson said. “We have a history of being a thorn in each other’s side. We are rivals and you never know what to expect when we hook up.”

Iverson’s words would prove prophetic, as his Lady Norse team finished the season splitting two series with Connors, both in Warner and Miami, Okla.

NEO finished the regular season strong with 48 wins and 11 losses and earned the top seed in the Division I Region II Softball Tournament in Oklahoma City.

The Lady Norse made short work of Northern Oklahoma College (NOC) in the first round of the tournament, beating NOC soundly by a score of 11-1.

Round two paired NEO with its nemesis Connors State, where NEO edged out a victory over the Cowgirls, 3-2.

After the close call with Connors, NEO thumped Western Oklahoma in round 3 with a decisive 9-2 victory.

Three straight wins in the Region II tournament placed Iverson’s Lady Norse in in the Championship bracket where they would yet again face the Connors State College Cowgirls.

“We knew it was going to be tough going into the championship game against Connors,” Iverson said. “To be completely honest I had a feeling it was going to come down to us against them again. I have tremendous respect for coach Carbone and the way he gets his team prepared to play us."

Rick Carbone had indeed coached his team up for the championship game against NEO. The Cowgirls jumped out early on the Lady Norse with a five-run first inning. That proved to be enough, as the Lady Norse were only able to manufacture four runs for the entire game. Carbone’s squad beat the Lady Norse in yet another tight game by a score of 6-4.

Because of the round-two loss to NEO, Connors would have to beat NEO in an “If-Needed” game, before they could be crowned the Region II Champs.

“Winning that second-round game against Connors proved to be huge for us,” Iverson said. “When we lost to Connors in the championship round, it was our only loss in the tournament, so we were still alive. All we had to do was win one more against them (Connors State).”

The second game of the championship game started out in typical NEO/Connors fashion. Connors jumped out on top in the first inning with a 1-0 lead. Like two prize-fighters trading blows, NEO evened the score in the bottom of the first with a run of their own.

The very next inning Connors would take the lead back with another run, giving the Cowgirls a 2-1 lead. NEO would load the bases in the second inning, when NEO’s Lindy Fluman smacked a double to score two runs, giving the lead back to the Lady Norse 3-2.

Connors struck back in the fourth inning with a solid fourth inning, where they regained the lead 5-4.

However, NEO would find their offensive fire-power that propelled them throughout the season, and add six more runs, including five runs in the fifth inning, as they finally put Connors away with a 10-5 win. The decisive win earned the Lady Norse the Division I Region II Softball Tournament Championship and a spot in the NJCAA National Tournament in St. George, Utah.

“The way we played in the Region II Tournament was indicative of our season,” Iverson said. “This has been a season about overcoming adversity. We did that early on, when we lost five straight in Texas, and had a bit of a letdown after our winning streak was ended by Connors. Then we get to the tournament where we were challenged once more by that same team (Connors). Our team fought hard and never lost focus. These ladies earned this championship.”

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