Delay and the Lady Tigers brought the National Junior College Athletics Association Division I champion’s trophy home from St. George, Utah with a 4-1 win over second-seeded Salt Lake Community College.
The trip to Utah did not come easy for the Lady Tigers. Chattanooga State worked its way through Columbia State, Vol State and Walters State to earn the trip west.
“We were excited. We won on a Thursday and we left Saturday,” Delay said of the quick turnaround.
The trip to the national tournament was not all business for Delay and her teammates. The trip to St. George began and ended with a stop in Las Vegas where the girls practiced and relaxed before getting down to business.
“From Saturday to Wednesday we spent in Las Vegas and St. George. We practiced for two days and then went sightseeing to bond and get used to the atmosphere,” Delay said of the pre-tournament time which included a trip to the Grand Canyon.
The Lady Tiger shortstop said the team really started focusing in what was coming the night of the pre-tournament banquet where the team felt it may have been a little underdressed.
“We were kind of the outcasts at the banquet. Everyone else was dressed in club attire or sun dresses. We had on T-shirts and khaki pants,” Delay said with a chuckle. “Us and one other team. It was really awkward.”
That awkwardness faded quickly when the Lady Tigers took to the field, but not before the tension was broken by second baseman Andie Johnson who tripped on her way to her position during opening introductions.
“We were the home team and when they were announcing our names she fell on her way to her position, so that kind of broke the ice for us,” Delay said with a grin. “At first everybody was kind of uptight, but when she fell it relaxed everybody.”
With the tension broken, the Lady Tigers, who headed into the tournament with a 56-4 record, knocked their first two opponents Aiken Tech (S.C.) and Wallace State (Ala.) to the loser’s bracket.
From there, Delay and the Lady Tigers struggled a bit before defeating Pima Community College out of Arizona.
“We couldn’t get it together at the very beginning. They were up until the top of the fourth, that is when Beth (Breeden) hit her grand slam and changed things. We just wailed Pima after that,” Delay recollected of the 8-3 win.
The road was not a perfect journey for the former Lady Raider and Chattanooga State. The Lady Tigers hit a speed bump in the semifinals against Utah’s own Salt Lake State.
“In the semifinal game against Salt Lake, we got beat. We beat ourselves,” said Delay. “But that gave us more motivation than anything.
Delay said the post-game celebration by Salt Lake inspired the Lady Tigers to settle down and focus on the task at hand.
“They thought they had won the tournament right there. The probably celebrated more than we celebrated when we won it (the tournament),” she said. “We knew we had to come back in on Saturday and turn it around.
The Lady Tigers did turn it around by winning three straight games to clinch the title.
“Everyone’s demeanor changed after that (Friday loss),” said the Lady Tiger. “Everyone knew what we were about to do. There wasn’t really a doubt in any of our minds at all through any of those games.”
Chattanooga State won a tight back-and-forth game over Wallace State before handing Salt Lake a loss in the first game of the double elimination championship series.
“The went ahead of us in the seventh and we turned around and beat them with two outs. After that they pretty much knew it was over, that we had come to play,” said Delay. “The final game we beat them 4-1.”
The Lady Tigers ended the tournament on defense playing patient softball.
“We had made up our minds that we were just going to take it one inning at a time. Softball is one of those games that can change at any moment. One hit can change everything,” Delay said of the final moments of the tournament. “It was really intense, but at the same time we knew we were about to win it. They did score a run in the seventh, but even with that we felt like it was no big deal. We had one out and we knew we just needed to get two more.”
When the final out did come, Delay and the Lady Tigers abandoned any thought of proper decorum and celebrated like national champions.
“When we did it, we were just a mess. We were running and dog piling, water was thrown and there was a lot of jumping up and down,” she said of the moments following the final out. “It was a big celebration. It was what we had worked so hard for.”
From St. George, the Lady Tigers returned for some relaxation time in Las Vegas where they carried the trophy with them everywhere they went throughout the city. But, the festivities were not done when the team boarded the plane headed east.
Upon arrival at the CSCC campus, the softball team was treated to a press conference, a parade and a social gathering at the home of the Chattanooga State president.
Delay, who is in the process of choosing a four-year college where she will complete her bachelor’s degree, admitted the significance of the accomplishment has not completely dawned on her so far.
“It really hasn’t sunk in that we accomplished. Not very many people can say the won a national championship,” she said.