Softball - Fri, May 4, 2007
CHICAGO - A three-run, two-out walk-off homer by senior shortstop Samantha Lovato (Oak Forest, Ill./Eisenhower) gave No. 2 seeded Saint Xavier University a thrilling 7-5 victory over No. 1 seed Olivet Nazarene University (Ill.) in the second championship game of the 2007 Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) Softball Tournament Friday at the SXU Softball Field in Chicago. Due to the double-elimination format of the tournament, the Cougars (30-13 overall) came into the day needing to beat the Tigers in back-to-back games to claim the tournament title. They got it done with a 9-1 game-one win in six innings and then capped the day with the dramatic 7-5 victory in game-two.

Following the championship games, Saint Xavier learned that six of its players were named to the 2007 CCAC All-Tournament Team. The players included: sophomore third baseman Gianna Pavone (Orland Park, Ill./St. Joseph's College), freshman second baseman Rebekah Ruettiger (St. Charles, Ill./St. Charles East), senior left fielder Mary Kate Smith (Chicago, Ill./Maria), freshman pitcher Jalyn Shearer (Beecher, Ill./Beecher), junior catcher Aly Kelley (Aurora, Ill./Waubonsie Valley), and Lovato. In addition, SXU coach Myra Minuskin was named the 2007 CCAC Softball Coach of the Year.

In the day's first game, the Cougar offense unloaded 15 hits en route to nine runs in the game. Smith finished game one 3-for-3 at the plate with two doubles, two runs scored, and two RBI. Pavone also had a solid first game with the bat going 3-for-4 with two runs scored and two RBI. Shearer got the start on the mound for Saint Xavier in game one and allowed just five hits over six innings with one earned run, two walks, and five strikeouts. The Cougars scored four runs in the sixth inning to claim the eight-run victory.

Facing ONU's No. 1 pitcher in junior Lauren Chessum, SXU knew it was in for a battle in the second game of the day. A RBI single in the top of the second inning gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead, but the Cougars answered big in the bottom of the frame with home runs over the left field wall by Ruettiger and Kelley, respectively. Kelley's homer was a two-run shot, which gave Saint Xavier a 3-1 advantage after two innings of play. However, Olivet Nazarene got six straight hits in the top of the fifth, including back-to-back RBI doubles, to plate three runs in the inning and took a 4-3 lead. Ruettiger came up big again in the sixth with another solo shot to left field to tie the game, 4-4. In the top of the seventh, ONU freshman left fielder Caitlin Gidcumb posted a solo homer to put the Tigers ahead, 5-4. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, a throwing error at third base kept the game alive and a walk followed by senior center fielder Marie Barker (Chicago Heights, Ill./Marian Catholic) to set the stage for Lovato's late-game heroics.

Saint Xavier (30-13 overall/14-3 CCAC) now awaits its seed for next week's 2007 NAIA Region VII Softball Tournament hosted by Olivet Nazarene University. The tournament begins on Wednesday, May 9, in Bourbonnais, Ill.