The College Report: Earnest helps Vandy to bowling nationals

By the time most of you read this, Vanderbilt could be the NCAA Division I women's bowling champions once again.

But, they also could be driving back from Taylor, Mich., with no hardware.

"We are not even thinking about Saturday yet," said Jessica Earnest, a Vandalia grad and Vanderbilt sophomore. "We just want to get through Thursday and Friday. After that, we can think about winning the title."

Earning the trip to the nationals was in itself a roller coaster ride. They were one of the eight teams selected to compete for the national championship, but Vanderbilt coach John Williamson had warned the squad that if Sam Houston State University and Arkansas State University earned a bid, Vanderbilt would probably not get into the field of eight.

"We were the last team called," Earnest said. "I remember hearing the other two schools get the bid and thought, 'That is it.' I did not think we would get in."

A NCAA Division I national bowling tournament without Vanderbilt, however, could not be. The past four years, the Commodores have been one of the top five teams in the country. They won the national title in 2007, when Josie Earnest, Jessica's older sister, was on the team. Josie is now an assistant coach for Vanderbilt. The nationals will be contested at Skore Lanes in Taylor.

"Our team has grown and matured during the year,"  Williamson said. "I felt we had done enough to earn a bid, but there was a chance we would not make it. I prepared the athletes for disappointment, but was hoping for the best. Jessica bounced around in our lineup last year, but has settled into our fourth slot this year. She has done a great job setting the table for our anchor."

Earnest is averaging 202.5 pins per game this year. Vanderbilt will enter the nationals with an 81-39 mark.

South Central grad Spencer Patton, a Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville pitcher, improved to 4-2 by beating Morehead State University. Patton allowed four earned runs on six hits in his seven innings of work. He fanned seven and walked one. Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville is 11-19 overall.

Former St. Elmo baseball player Logan Mahon has put two victories on the board in the past two weeks and only had to work 1 1/3 innings in each outing. In Southeast Missouri State University's 8-5 win against Arkansas State University, Mahon allowed only one hit. He fanned a pair and walked two. In a 7-6 win against Eastern Kentucky, he allowed one earned run on one hit. He fanned two and walked one. Mahon is 3-3. SEMO is 17-14 overall and 4-4 in the Ohio Valley Conference.

Iowa State University distance runner Rachel Bell, a Vandalia grad, was 14th in the 1,500-meter run at the University of Missouri Relays. Bell, a senior, finished the race in 5:10.67.

Mulberry Grove graduate Shelby Woodward was 1-for-3 with a double as her college team, MacMurray College, lost a 6-5 battle to Principia College. Woodward drove home three runs. MacMurray is 2-18 overall and 0-9 in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

Greenville College's Paige Dodson and Ann Githinji, graduates of Vandalia and South Central, respectively, each competed at the Washington University Invitational. Dodson was part of the Lady Panther 1,600-meter relay team, which took 12th in 4:15.04. In the 800-meter run, Githinji was 20th with a time of 2:28.49. Greenville was seventh with 51 points. St. Louis University won the outing with 146 points.

The Greenville College softball team has struggled to a 6-13 overall record, but in league play, it is a completely different story, as they are 3-3 in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. They recently defeated Westminster College 6-2, and GC infielder Rachel Brewer, a Mulberry Grove grad, was 1-for-4.

Dallas Gray, a Vandalia grad, and Zeke Asher, a St. Elmo product, have both been hitting the links for their respective schools. At the Millikin University Big Blue Spring Classic, Gray, a Blackburn College golfer, finished 10th by shooting a 151. He opened with a low-round of 74. He helped Blackburn take fourth overall, as the Beavers finished with a 633 stroke count. Millikin won the outing with a 575. The outing was held at Red Tail Run Golf Course in Decatur.

Asher finished 45th at the John McNaughton Memorial, which was hosted by Illinois College and held at the Jacksonville Country Club in Jacksonville, Illinois. Asher shot a 109. As a team, MacMurray finished sixth with a 399. Webster University won the outing with a 297.

South Central grad Ryan Gesell, a Millikin University pitcher, worked two innings in MU's 11-1 loss to Illinois Wesleyan University. Gesell, who did not get the decision, allowed two earned runs on two hits. He walked three batters. Millikin is 4-18 overall and 0-8 in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin.

Vandalia grad Meagan Wright shot a 260 at the Illinois College Spring Invitational, which was held at The Links Golf Course in Jacksonville. The IC golfer shot a low round of 124 in the second and final round. As a team, Illinois College took eighth with an 868. Washington University won the outing with a 686.

Kyle Hawkins, a Vandalia graduate, pitched two complete games for the SIUE competitive club baseball team. He struck out seven and walked one in a 24-0 win against Columbia College and threw a four-hitter in a 4-0 shutout against Purdue. He is 3-0 with 23 strikeouts this season.

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