Portland, Ore. – After dropping Wednesday's first championship game against No. 11 ranked and No. 2 seeded Corban University (Ore.) by a score of 10-7 in eight innings, the No. 10 ranked and No. 1 seeded Saint Xavier University softball team came roaring back in the second game winning 10-2 in just five innings to claim the NAIA Softball Opening Round Tournament championship at Delta Park in Portland, Ore. Not only did the Cougars (49-7 overall) claim the title and the automatic berth to the NAIA Softball National Championship in Columbus, Ga., but the team captured the best single-season win total for the program surpassing the 2000 squad that went 48-12 overall. Freshman Nicole Nonnemacher (Bloomington, Ill./Normal Community) was huge on the mound in Wednesday's second game as well as at the plate in both contests.
In game one, the Cougars trailed 1-0 heading into the bottom of the first. However, a throwing error by Corban helped plate a pair of runs and sophomore left fielder Holly Hilden (Belvidere, Ill./Belvidere North) capped the scoring in the bottom of the opening frame with an RBI single to left field. With SXU leading 3-1 heading to the third inning, the Warriors tied the game with a two-run homer by junior third baseman Lounette Jackson. Another homer, a three-run shot, by senior first baseman Stephanie Nippert in the top of the fourth gave Corban the 7-3 lead. Senior shortstop Ashley Sullivan (Lemont, Ill./UW-Parkside/Lemont) started a one-out rally with a base hit up the middle in the bottom of the sixth. Nicole Nonnemacher collected the Cougars' fourth consecutive hit with a bases-loaded, ground-rule double that would score a pair of runs. Sophomore first baseman Amanda Hainlen (Bloomington, Ill./Heartland CC/Bloomington) drew a bases-loaded walk later in the frame to make it, 7-6. After a quick top of the seventh, SXU scored the game-tying run when sophomore catcher Megan James (Oak Forest, Ill./Marist) brought Sullivan home on an infield single to force extra innings. However, the Warriors hit a lead-off homer to open the eighth and scored twice more to take the lead for good, 10-7. Junior Megan Nonnemacher (Bloomington, Ill./Normal Community) threw all eight innings allowing 11 hits and 10 runs (nine earned), while striking out four in the loss (26-3).
The second game had a completely different feel as Saint Xavier showed plenty of aggressiveness offensively scoring four runs in the top of the first inning highlighted a two-run double down the left field line by sophomore centerfielder Shannon Lauret (Beach Park, Ill./Zion-Benton). Corban answered in the bottom of the first with a two-run home run to centerfield by junior right fielder Courtney Castronovo to make the score, 4-2. The rest of the game's scoring belonged to the Cougars with six unanswered runs over the next four frames to end things early. One of the key hits of the game came off the bat of senior third baseman Kate Mollohan (Tinley Park, Ill./Andrew) with a one-out, two-run double down the right field line to put SXU ahead, 9-2. Freshman second baseman Kasey Kanaga (Metamora, Ill./Metamora) had the defensive play of the tournament when she turned a sure single to right field into a groundout with a spectacular diving stop to pick up the second out of the bottom of the fifth inning. Nicole Nonnemacher earned her 23rd win of the season (23-4) going all five frames and allowing three hits, two runs (both earned) and two walks with three strikeouts. On the day, she finished 6-for-8 at the plate with four runs scored and two RBI.
Saint Xavier (49-7 overall/19-1 CCAC) is now one of the 10 remaining teams to qualify for the NAIA Softball National Championship in Columbus, Ga. The 10-team tournament kicks off on Friday, May 24.