It takes a lot of tenacity to reach the top of the mountain. It takes even more to stay there.
Arkansas Tech University's softball program earned its second consecutive Great American Conference Tournament championship by defeating Southeastern Oklahoma State University 5-1 in the title game at Bentonville on Sunday afternoon.
The nationally 14th-ranked Golden Suns (44-13) will carry a 16-game winning streak into the NCAA Division II Tournament, which will begin May 9-11.
ATU will compete in the portion of the NCAA Tournament Central Regional played in Edmond, Okla. The No. 4 seed Golden Suns will be joined in Edmond by host and No. 1 seed University of Central Oklahoma, No. 5 seed Southern Arkansas University and No. 8 seed University of Minnesota-Duluth.
Tech's first-round game against fellow GAC member Southern Arkansas is planned for a noon first pitch on Thursday, May 9. Coverage will be provided by KARV 101.3 FM/610 AM and www.arkansastechsports.com.
Arkansas Tech took the lead for good in the GAC Tournament final behind Paty Loredo's run-scoring single in the top of the fourth inning. Sarah Coronado raced home and the Golden Suns took a 2-1 advantage.
Megan Goodnight's run batted in on a double and a two-run single by Coronado one inning later increased Tech's margin to 5-1.
ATU relief pitchers Bailey Shaffer (13-4) and Kristen Dempsey took it from there. Shaffer tossed scoreless frames in the bottom of the fifth and sixth innings before giving way to Dempsey.
The Savage Storm (29-28) loaded the bases against Dempsey in the last of the seventh to bring the potential tying run to the plate with one out. The right-handed senior from Benton buckled down, inducing a fielder's choice and a strikeout to strand three runners on base and preserve the Golden Suns' second consecutive GAC Tournament title.
Arkansas Tech junior Ashton Sangster was named GAC Tournament most valuable player. She drove in five runs over the course of the Golden Suns' three games in Bentonville.
Sangster was joined on the All-GAC Tournament team by fellow ATU players Bailey Bunch, Tymber Riley, Gaby Vasquez and Goodnight.
By virtue of earning the GAC's automatic bid, the Golden Suns will appear in the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in the last five years.