05/15/10 — Mitchell's defensive gem helps Pitt CC advance to JUCO softball world series

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Mitchell's defensive gem helps Pitt CC advance to JUCO softball world series

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 15, 2010 11:07 PM

GREENVILLE -- Casey Mitchell's shining moment on defense turned into an unforgettable -- and historical play -- for the Pitt Community College softball team.

Archrival Spartanburg Methodist had runners on first and second with two outs in the seventh inning. The batter connected on a seeing-eye grounder that nearly slipped between Mitchell, who played second base, and teammate Amy Godley.

Mitchell dove to her left, threw to Godley for the final out and the Bulldogs topped SMC 3-0 for their first-ever Region X championship. The heart-stopping ending vaulted Pitt Community College into the 2010 National JUCO Division I World Series, which begin Thursday in St. George, Utah.

The Bulldogs (39-11overall) face an undetermined opponent in opening-round play of the 16-team, double-elimination tournament.

Winning the region and heading West was a long-term goal, according to Mitchell. Even sixth-year head coach Junior Bailey had no question in his mind that the Bulldogs could complete the task.

But SMC stood in the way, especially when it defeated Pitt 4-2 and forced a winner-take-all game in Region X play.

"We were determined to beat them and had our minds set that we were going to Utah," said Mitchell, an Eastern Wayne alumna.

Mitchell's bunt led to the eventual game-winning run in the final game and the Bulldogs boosted their advantage to 3-0. Right-hander Charity Watson kept the SMC hitters silent and Pitt played a solid defensive game that culminated on Mitchell's title-clinching stop.

Those "tweeners" bothered Mitchell during her high school days.

"Coach Bailey has taught us new different ways of fielding the ball," said Mitchell. "I've always been able to get the ones hit straight at me. With him, it's about angles ... moving to the left and right to stop ground balls from getting in the hole."

Bailey said Mitchell's defensive presence has been crucial.

"She's done a great job," said Bailey. "She was a good ballplayer (in high school) and kind of raw. She was willing to make adjustments to her game and solidified second base for us quite a bit. Having that solid middle infield is crucial to what we do."

Mitchell expected the daily pressure and realized the work ethic needed to crack into the Bulldogs' starting lineup. And once she proved herself, the playing time increased and she's become a valuable asset in Pitt Community College's most-successful season.

The team's camaraderie has been important, too. Mitchell said that most of her friends are her teammates, and they hang out together all the time. The team unity has created a yin-yang factor -- they know what each other is thinking and they can relate to each other on the field.

"That's our biggest strength," said Mitchell. "I had a lot of pressure going in and starting as a freshman. You have to step up and play your best all the time so you can earn your spot. I worked hard to get that spot and the pressure has definitely made me a better player.

"It's been a great experience. (But) I had no clue we'd be this good and go to the World Series. Every day after practice we say 'champions on three.' If you practice like a champion and act like a champion, you will be a champion."

And Mitchell is.