Columbia, Ky. – After dropping its opening game to No. 10 ranked and No. 2 seeded Lindsey Wilson College (Ky.) by a score of 1-0, the No. 8 ranked and top-seeded Saint Xavier University softball team bounced back in a big way by eliminating No. 4 seed Cornerstone University (Mich.) with a 9-0 victory in six innings at the 2014 NAIA Opening Round National Championships Tuesday at Lindsey Wilson Park in Columbia, Ky. The Cougars (47-8-1 overall) advance to Wednesday's tournament championship game against the host Blue Raiders and will need to beat them twice to claim the Opening Round title. The game is scheduled for a 9 a.m. start Wednesday with the game moved up from its original 1 p.m. start time due to impending thunderstorms expected to hit the area during the afternoon. The second game, if necessary, would immediately follow the 9 a.m. game.
There were few SXU highlights in Tuesday's first game against Lindsey Wilson as the Cougars managed just four total hits. The two pitchers, sophomore Nicole Nonnemacher (Bloomington, Ill./Normal Community) and junior Jordan Hood, were both tough throughout. Nonnemacher went six innings and allowed just five hits, a run (earned) and a pair of walks with 13 strikeouts. Hood was even tougher going all seven frames and giving up just four hits and no walks with seven strikeouts for the shutout. Nonnemacher fell to 21-5 on the year with the loss, while Hood moved to 23-2. The Blue Raiders scored the game's lone run in the bottom of the fifth inning after stringing together a walk and back-to-back singles, all with two outs. Saint Xavier had its best chance to tie the game or take the lead in the top of the sixth with runners at second and third base with no outs, but two strikeouts and a fly-out to right field closed the door.
The second game was a completely different story as the Cougars jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the third inning and continued to pile on the runs en route to the 9-0 victory. Junior first baseman Amanda Hainlen (Bloomington, Ill./Heartland CC/Bloomington) came up with the first big hit of the game with a two-run, two-out double to right field in the top of the third. An RBI single by junior catcher Megan James (Oak Forest, Ill./Marist) sparked a three-run frame for SXU in the top of the fourth. Freshman third baseman Franchesca Graffeo (Crestwood, Ill./Shepard) scored on a wild pitch as well in the frame, while Hainlen walked in a run with the bases loaded for the third run. Saint Xavier got four more runs in the sixth inning with junior centerfielder Shannon Lauret (Beach Park, Ill./Zion-Benton) kicked off the big inning with an RBI single to the shortstop. Senior Megan Nonnemacher (Bloomington, Ill./Normal Community) picked up the win (23-3) throwing all six innings and allowing just three hits and two walks with eight strikeouts for her 12th shutout of the season.
Saint Xavier (47-8-1 overall) needs to win a pair Wednesday in a rematch with No. 2 seed and No. 10 ranked Lindsey Wilson College (Ky.). The championship game is scheduled for a 9 a.m. start.