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Softball - Mon, May. 12, 2014

The No. 1 Concordia Eagles National Championship defense began in earnest on Monday afternoon, May 12, as they defeated St. Thomas 5-1 at Eagles Field.  

Defending national champion Concordia (Calif.) returns to the National Championship Opening Round for the second-straight year. The Eagles, who have been ranked No. 1 in each of the nine polls this year and 17 in-a-row dating back to last season, are hosting the opening round for the second-straight year. 

On Monday, Annette Merjano (SR/Auburn, CA) had the big hit, a three-run homer in the fifth inning, her 14th of the year, second on the team.  Megan Feuerstein (SO/Huntington Beach, CA) had a two-RBI single in the first, and Caitrin Debaun (SR/Garden Grove, CA) had a double.  Jenna Jorgenson (SR/Laguna Niguel, CA) and Chanele Dresser (JR/Norwalk, CA) had the Eagles two other hits.  Concordia, who played as the visiting team making it a neutral contest, left three on base and committed two errors.  Brittani McGue (JR/Modesto, CA) started for Concordia, allowed only three hits and one earned run, while striking out two.  She improved to 23-2 on the year. 

The Bobcats walked three Eagles to start the game, but quickly got two outs.  Megan Feuerstein did not go down easily, singling to left center to plate two runs before St. Thomas could escape the inning.  McGue worked around a leadoff error in the bottom half.  Debaun doubled with two out in the second, but did not score, and Hannah Howell (SO/Citrus Heights, CA) turned a double play from third for the Eagles in the bottom half.  Annette Merjano hit one off the wall to open the third, but was thrown out stretching to second.  The Bobcats singled to open the third, advanced on a groundout, and scored on a single to left.  A strikeout and jumping catch from Howell left it at 2-1.  The Eagles were quiet in the fourth and Merjano turned a lineout double play at first in the bottom half to get Concordia out of the inning. 

Chanele Dresser singled to start the fifth, two batters later Jorgenson bunt-singled to third, and Merjano lifted one over the left field wall for the 5-1 lead.  McGue stranded a one-out single in the bottom of the fifth and Concordia went 1-2-3 in the sixth.  McGue forced three groundouts while hitting a batter in the sixth.  Both teams went 1-2-3 in the seventh.

"Anyway you can get a win in the postseason is important," Concordia head coach Crystal Rosenthal said.  "The team that makes the most plays usually wins and hopefully that is us tomorrow."

Concordia improved to 49-5 and dropped the Bobcats to 27-26.  The Eagles will face No. 17 Simpson tomorrow at 10:30 am in the semifinals.  St. Thomas will play No. 23 Concordia Oregon at 1:00 pm in loser-out action.

(Opening Round Brackets - HTML) The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) has officially released the seeds and brackets for the 2014 NAIA Softball National Championship Opening Round. Each of the 10 locations will feature a four-team double-elimination tournament. There are 40 qualifiers that will compete from May 12 - 14.

The 10 Opening Round champions will punch their ticket for the 34th annual NAIA Softball World Series in Columbus, Ga., from May 23 - 29.