The No. 1 Concordia Eagles clinched a berth to the NAIA Softball National Championship with a 9-0 win in five innings over College of Idaho in the championship game of the NAIA Softball National Championship Opening Round on the Concordia Campus on Wednesday afternoon, May 15.
(Opening Round Schedule) The inaugural NAIA Softball National Championship Opening Round began Monday with 10 tournaments playing out. A total of 40 teams will participated in the double-elimination format with four teams at a different location. Sixteen programs returned that participated in the 2012 Softball National Championship.
Ranked No. 1 in each of the past eight Coaches' Top 25 polls, No. 1 seed Concordia (Calif.) played host to No. 2 St. Gregory's, No. 3 College of Idaho and No. 4 Bethany (Kan.). Concordia is playing in the championship for the fourth time in the last five years.
Concordia ace Katie Cotta threw her NAIA-record 11th no-hitter of the year on Wednesday and she is currently one short of tying Rachel Murray's career record of 16. She struck out 10, six short of her single-game record, and was a walk short of a perfect game. She improved to 23-2 on the year, lowered her NAIA-leading ERA to .14, and threw her second no-hitter of the tournament in as many days.
Concordia did a better job getting to College of Idaho starter Nickayla Skinner, racking up seven hits for eight runs, five earned, before chasing her in the fifth. Reliever Cortni Pena gave up two hits and one unearned run. Annette Merjano hit her eighth homer of the year and Hannah Howell launched her seventh. The Eagles had a total of nine hits and left four on base. Shainna Groom, Merjano, and Howell all had two hits.
Merjano homered over the left field fence in the second inning to get the scoring started. Morgan Reiter led off the third with a double down the right field line. She was sacrificed to third and scored on Caitrin Debaun's single to right field. Groom doubled to right center to start the fourth, tagged to third on a fly, and scored on Merjano's squeeze bunt.
Howell led off the fifth squeezing a home run just inside the left field foul pole. After a runner reached on an error, Jenna Jorgenson and Groom both singled. One runner came home on a hit batter and Skinner left the game. Merjano dropped a looper down the left field line for another, and a walk made it 7-0. Howell ripped a single through the right side to increase it to 9-0. Cotta set the final two batters down swinging for the win. College of Idaho forced a leadoff walk in the third for their lone base runner.
Concordia improved to 48-3, while College of Idaho's season ends at 36-23.
Each of the Opening Round winners will advance to the NAIA Softball National Championship final site in Columbus, Ga., May 24 – 30. The format in Columbus is a double-elimination, 10-team event on a single championship field. The field will be announced May 16.
NeuLion, the NAIA's official video-streaming company of 18 select NAIA national championships, will be broadcasting all 19 games of the national championship final site in Columbus, Ga. Single day packages can be purchased for $9.95, while an all-Championship pass is available for $29.95. For more information, including how to test your computer and internet connection, click here.