CHICAGO – A walk-off homer to left field by sophomore first baseman Amanda Hainlen (Bloomington, Ill./Heartland CC/Bloomington) gave the No. 15 ranked Saint Xavier University softball team a very fitting ending to a very thrilling game one as part of a doubleheader sweep of Ashford University (Iowa) Sunday afternoon at the SXU Softball Field in Chicago. The Cougars (24-3 overall) trailed 5-1 heading into the bottom of the seventh of Sunday's opener, but got a pair of two-out homers, including a three-run shot by junior designated hitter Ariel Hinton (Crawfordsville, Ind./Crawfordsville) to tie the game and force extra frames, setting the stage for Hainlen's late-game heroics. Saint Xavier completed the sweep with a 5-0 victory in the second game. The Cougars have now won 23 of their last 24 games.
Ashford got the scoring started in game one with a pair of RBI singles in the top of the second to build a 2-0 lead. Freshman second baseman Kasey Kanaga (Metamora, Ill./Metamora) recorded a RBI single of her own in the bottom of the frame to make it a 2-1 game. A solo homer by the Saints to open the third inning put the visitors ahead, 3-1. The score stayed 3-1 until the top of the seventh when a RBI double and a fielding error by SXU led to two more Ashford runs extending the gap to 5-1. However, a solo shot to centerfield with two outs by freshman right fielder Nicole Nonnemacher (Bloomington, Ill./Normal Community) followed by a walk from senior third baseman Kate Mollohan (Tinley Park, Ill./Andrew) and a Hainlen single set things up for Hinton's huge three-run blast to tie the game. Junior right-hander Megan Nonnemacher (Bloomington, Ill./Normal Community) earned the win (13-1) going all nine innings and allowing 12 hits, five runs (four earned) and a walk with nine strikeouts.
Nicole Nonnemacher kept the Ashford bats in check for most of the second game allowing just three hits and two walks en route to the shutout and the win (12-2). She tallied an impressive 12 strikeouts over her seven innings on the mound. In the bottom of the first, Saint Xavier took advantage of a fielding error by the Saints to score Nicole Nonnemacher from second base and went ahead, 1-0. A triple by senior shortstop Ashley Sullivan (Lemont, Ill./UW-Parkside/Lemont) in the second inning led to another run for the Cougars after a throwing error by the Ashford catcher on a stolen base attempt. A pair of RBI singles by sophomore centerfielder Shannon Lauret (Beach Park, Ill./Zion-Benton) and Mollohan plated two more SXU runs in the bottom of the fourth extending the lead to 4-0. Lauret added some insurance in the bottom of the sixth with her first career homer, a solo shot to left field.
Saint Xavier (25-3 overall/6-0 CCAC) gets back to Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) play on Tuesday, April 9, with a home doubleheader against Roosevelt University (Ill.). The first of the two games kicks off at 3 p.m. at the SXU Softball Field.