BOONE — Four years ago, Katlin Briley of Creston was an All-American infielder for a DMACC softball team that placed third in the NJCAA Division II World Series.
To date, that’s the highest national finish in school history.
Today, younger sister Taylor Briley begins a quest to surpass that finish as the starting first baseman for the No. 1 ranked Bears in action against 16th-seeded Mott Community College of Michigan (33-15). Mott downed Delta College, 14-12, for the District J championship.
“It’s always fun trying to beat my sister,” Briley said with a beaming smile after DMACC (44-0) swept Dawson CC of Montana, 2-0 and 9-0, on Thursday for the District H title.
Briley is playing the final softball games of a decorated high school and collegiate career, which included two state tournament appearances for the Panthers. After recently receiving her associate’s degree at DMACC, Briley will major in elementary education next year at Iowa State University. She will not continue playing softball.
The Bears are making their fifth straight trip to the national tournament, which is being played today through Saturday at Traceway Park in Clinton, Mississippi.
Briley started both district games Thursday at first base for the Bears. She was 1-for-3 with a walk and single in the 2-0 opening win, as sophomore All-American pitcher Molly Jacobsen of Adel pitched a one-hitter with 10 strikeouts. She improved to 23-0 for the season.
Sophomore Gabby Schnathorst of Carlisle escaped a first-inning bases-loaded jam with an inning-ending double play to third, and improved to 11-0 with her own shutout in the 9-0 nightcap victory. She allowed three hits and struck out seven.
In that second game, Briley had a well-executed sacrifice bunt and sent a runner home on a drive to center field that resulted in a Dawson two-base error. She also scored a run.
Briley, a second-team all-region infielder, is making her second trip to the national tournament. Last year, DMACC went 1-2, losing to eventual champion LSU-Eunice, 3-2, after a first-round victory.
Coach Bob Ligouri said the approach doesn’t change just because DMACC goes in as the favorite for the first time.
“Nothing changes,” Ligouri said. “The reality is, you’re going to play the best that you can play. Three straight years we lost to the eventual champion by one run. We’re looking forward to the opportunity.”
Briley said a southern trip to start the season in February and March, featuring four one-run victories and two more by two runs, proved the mettle of this 2018 Bears team.
“What sticks out for me is down in Mississippi, we came from behind in several games,” Briley said. “That proved to us, in the very beginning of the season, that we can come back, and we an play with the best teams. To get those statement wins in the beginning of the season was huge.”
Winning a national championship in her final softball game, a career that dates back to T-ball in Creston, would be icing on the cake, said the daughter of Chad and Treana Briley.
“I already teared up earlier today thinking about how I only have a few games left,” Briley said. “My last season of softball has been so much fun. Whether it’s practice or a game, we’re always hyping each other up and having so much fun.”