By Alfred Kojima, NAIA Media Assistant
COLUMBUS, Ga. – (Box Score) Freshman pitcher Nicole Nonnemacher went the distance to earn a complete game victory as No. 9 seed Saint Xavier (Ill.) defeated No. 5 seed Cal State San Marcos, 3-1, in an elimination game at the 2013 NAIA Softball National Championship final site at the South Commons Softball Complex on Saturday. In the battle of the Cougars, Cal State San Marcos’ season ends without advancing to the championship semifinalist round for the first time in three years.
For the first time in school history, Saint Xavier posted its 50th victory of season. The Cougars (50-8) will advance in the loser’s bracket of the double-elimination event and play either No. 2 seed Lubbock Christian (Texas) or No. 10 Spring Hill (Ala.) in an elimination game Monday at 10 a.m. EDT. Cal State San Marcos concludes the 2013 season with a record of 43-12 overall.
“It doesn’t matter who we play (Monday) – we are grateful to be here,” said Saint Xavier head coach Myra Minuskin. “We just beat the preseason No. 1 team. We already broke a school-record in wins at 49, but 50 sounds good.”
Both teams had six hits on the day. Cal State San Marcos junior outfielder Kaitlin McGinley and Saint Xavier senior third baseman Kate Mollohan had two hits each, respectively.
Nonnemacher struck out three to improve her record to 24-4 overall. Senior pitcher Cortney Allen took the loss for CSUSM, allowing one earned run and will conclude her season with a 34-7 record. Entering the championship with a .910 ERA, Allen got knocked around in the last two games. She allowed nine earned runs in 11 1/3 innings for a 5.56 ERA.
SXU managed to load the bases in the first inning. Sophomore left fielder Holly Hilden stepped in and was hit by a pitch to force in a run.
CSUSM tied the game in the third inning. Freshman catcher Tani Leasau led off the inning with a base hit to left, and scored on an RBI single by Bellamy.
In the top of the fourth inning, back-to-back base hits by junior Brittney Guy and junior Alex Miller set up runners at second and third with no outs for Cal State San Marcos. A batted ball by sophomore Olivia Lucatuorto was fielded by freshman second baseman Kassandra Kanaga and Guy was eventually tagged out at home for the first out. A foul out and ground ball closed out the inning. CSUSM left four runners on base.
In the bottom of the fourth for Saint Xavier, sophomore first baseman Amanda Hainlen led off the inning with a double into the left field corner. Freshman Denise Anderson entered the game as a pinch runner and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by sophomore Megan James. Junior Katie Houlihan stepped into a bunted a ball that was fielded cleanly, but en errant throw down the right field line allowed Anderson to score, while Houlihan advanced all the way to third. Nonnemacher then bunted the ball in play. Sophomore second baseman Olivia Lucatuorto fielded the ball and threw home, however Houlihan beat the throw home for a 3-1 lead.
The two runs in the fourth inning were enough for Nonnemacher, the younger sister of Megan. She did not allow a walk and all six hits were of the single variety. Her three strikeouts pushed her school-record total to 258 on the season.
“She was great,” said Minuskin. “She has pitched the second game of the doubleheader almost all year long (her older sister Megan has pitched the first game). I have so much confidence in her; she doesn’t play like a freshman. If I could put the mentality that Nicole has and put it in every single player, it would be unbelievable.”
Saint Xavier helped its cause with superb defense. For the sixth time in seven games, the Cougars were spotless in the error column. Entering the game, Saint Xavier had the least amount of errors on the year in the NAIA (29) and rank No. 1 in fielding percentage (.981).
The championship is a 10-team, double-elimination event hosted by the Columbus Sports Council. This is the 33rd annual championship and takes place in the state of Georgia for the first time in NAIA softball history.
For more information on the national championship, click here.