Tigers Softball Caps 2012 Season Ranked 4th in Nation

Brenau Tigers in the dugoutIn a seesaw year, the Brenau Golden Tigers softball team entered the 2012 season as No. 5 in the nation. They fell to 16th by the end of regular play despite top pitching and defense. Then, the Tigers knocked off a couple of top-ranked teams to make the Final Four in the championship tournament and finished as the nation’s No. 4 team – the highest position ever for the Brenau squad.

“Of all my years of coaching, this season is the most memorable,” Tigers Head Coach Devon Thomas says of the 44-16 season. “We battled through ups and downs throughout the year, but never lost focus.”

Anna Mannes
Anna Mannes

Although he loses six seniors, Thomas has reason to be optimistic. In addition to some great freshman prospects he has lined up, Thomas’s 2013 team will include among veteran returnees the NAIA All-Tournament Team members Anna Maness, a junior from Seagrove, N.C., and Tiffany Schandera, a junior from Columbus, Ga.

Maness (22-10), an All-American selection in 2011, was Divisional Pitcher of the Year and SSAC first-team All-Conference. In a three-win tournament performance, Maness threw two of the three back-to-back shutouts the Tigers delivered in the tournament and pitched in five of the seven games, counting a two-inning relief appearance. In the final game, she held No. 2 Oklahoma City University scoreless through five innings Maness and senior infielder Brooke Bryant from Royston, Ga., also are NAIA Scholar-Athletes.

Schandera, at third base and batting in the leadoff position following her 2011 NAIA first-team All-America selection and SSAC Player of the Year award, was first team All-Conference, too. In addition, Schandera and Maness both were picked for the Louisville Slugger All-Region team.

The Tigers team, which played in only one other National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics championship series in 2009, fell just one run short of a title shot. It made it to the Final Four in the Gulf Shores, Ala., tournament after a 5-0 sweep that included knocking off then-No.1-ranked Concordia University 2-0 in an eight-inning pitching duel May 19. The team moved from the Elite Eight to the final rounds after an 8-4 shellacking of No.4-ranked Central Baptist.

Jenny Shepherd
Jenny Shepherd

In their five-game streak, the Tigers recorded their third straight shutout of the series with a 5-0 win over Auburn University-Montgomery. Sophomore pitcher Jenny Shepherd (16-6) from Martinez, Ga., won that game as well as another in her three tournament starts, and she will return next year, too. Her loss came in the first round of Final Four play as Brenau faced the only other unbeaten team in the tournament, Southern States Athletic Conference rival Shorter University, a team the Tigers had defeated twice earlier this year. The eventual No. 1 Shorter won 5-2, sending Brenau to the second round of double elimination play against the Oklahoma team. Beating OCU would have put Brenau back into a final matchup with Shorter, but after jumping out to a one-run lead over OCU in the first inning and holding on to the sixth inning, the Tigers gave up a two-run double.

You can read more about the Tigers remarkable softball season on the Web at www.brenautigers.com

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