Softball - Wed, Apr. 29, 2009
CHICAGO - They took the toughest road possible, but in the end the marathon trip turned out to be well worth it, as the top-seeded Saint Xavier University softball team pulled off the miracle finish Wednesday afternoon winning three elimination games, including a pair against No. 2 seed Robert Morris College (Ill.), to claim the 2009 Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) Softball Tournament and an automatic berth in the NAIA World Series, which begins on May 14 in Decatur, Ala. A six-run second inning keyed the final push in the second title game of the day for the exhausted Cougars, who trailed 3-0 after the first inning in the 7-4 finale.

SXU also trailed 8-6 in Robert Morris' first shot at the tournament championship only to put three runs up on the board in a 9-8 come-from-behind victory. And that all came after SXU head coach Myra Minuskin's club outlasted No. 6 seeded Purdue University-North Central (Ind.), 1-0, in 12 innings in the first tourney game of the day. In that contest, Saint Xavier sophomore second baseman Brittany Hannigan (Palos Hills, Ill./Stagg) broke up the scoreless deadlock with her two-out RBI single to left field in the bottom of the 12th inning plating sophomore designated player Rachel Krabbe (Beecher, Ill./Beecher), who opened the frame with a single. Junior Jalyn Shearer (Beecher, Ill./Beecher) picked up the win after coming in for freshman starter Amie Brown (Joliet, Ill./Joliet Catholic) in the 10th inning. Brown allowed just three hits in her nine innings of scoreless work. Purdue-North Central's Brittany Bridges, a freshman as well, went toe-to-toe with both Brown and Shearer going the distance for the Panthers, allowing just the one run and six hits in 11 2/3 innings.

In the second game, both Saint Xavier and Robert Morris opened with three-run first innings. Back-to-back RBI singles by sophomore catcher Amy Kennedy (Pontiac, Ill./Pontiac) and senior third baseman Megen Friscia (Homer Glen, Ill./Lockport) keyed Saint Xavier's top half of the inning, but those were offset by a two-run single by Kathryn Zarr for Robert Morris in the bottom of the first. Friscia added to her RBI total in the Cougars' three-run fifth inning with a two-run single, but SXU's 6-3 lead turned out to be short-lived when Robert Morris put five runs on the board in the bottom of the inning. Shayna Rinkus had the big hit, a two-run, pinch-hit single.

A key Robert Morris error re-opened the door for Saint Xavier in the sixth inning as the Cougars registered their third three-run inning of the game to take a 9-8 lead. Shearer, who started the contest after finishing the first game, got through the last two innings unscathed, but not before Kristina Maggio's one-out double to left field made things interesting in the seventh. Shearer (16-8 overall) was able to get out of the inning coaxing a pop-up and then recording a strikeout to end the topsy-turvy affair and force the second title game.

In the finale, Zarr again got Robert Morris going with her second two-run single of the day in the first inning. Saint Xavier, however, broke the Eagles' backs with a six-run second inning. Hannigan, the hero against PUNC, started the scoring with a two-run single before freshman shortstop Ashley Hunter (Metamora, Ill./Metamora) cleared the bases with a three-run double. Robert Morris rallied with one run in the fourth, but that was offset by a Saint Xavier run in the fifth. Freshman Nicole Derezinski (St. John, Ind./Andrean) gained the win (5-3 overall) by working the first five innings before Brown finished things off. She worked two scoreless innings to pick up her second save of the season.

With the victory, Saint Xavier (30-18 overall) advances to the NAIA World Series taking place from May 14-20 at the Wilson Morgan Softball Complex in Decatur, Ala. Robert Morris finishes its season at 30-23 overall.