The No. 1 Concordia Eagles found themselves in the midst of postseason play on Tuesday morning, May 13, against No. 17 Simpson in the NAIA Softball National Championship Opening Round Concordia Bracket in Irvine, CA.
Senior catcher Emily Craig (SR/Long Beach, CA) carried the offense with a solo home run in the sixth and ninth innings to lead Concordia to a 3-1 win in nine innings. Stevie Goldstein (JR/Garden Grove, CA) held Concordia in the game, scattering eight hits, allowing an unearned run, and leaving nine runners on base. Cal-Pac Pitcher of the Year Paris Hallums was equally good, allowing just six hits, but two were home runs and one RBI-double, to go with eight strikeouts. Caitrin Debaun (SR/Garden Grove, CA) had a hit and reached base all three times, and Rachel Prentice (SR/Upland, CA) accounted for the insurance run with an RBI-double in the ninth. Goldstein improved to 19-1 and Hallums dropped to 11-3. Craig launched her eighth and ninth bombs of the year.
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.
A leadoff walk and single up the middle from Annette Merjano (SR/Auburn, CA) put two on with one out for Concordia in the first. The Eagles were unable to bring home a run, but Goldstein forced three groundouts to start her day. The Eagles had a runner thrown out stealing to quiet their threat in the second. Goldstein worked three more groundouts in the second, and Caitrin Debaun singled with one out in the third. She moved to second on a wild pitch, but was left stranded. The Red Hawks singled to open the bottom half, were sacrificed to second, and scored on a single and fielding error from Concordia.
Emily Craig walked with one out in the fourth, and an error allowed a second runner to reach. A strikeout and groundout ended the threat. A single and walk put two on for Simpson to start the bottom of the fourth. The first out was recorded at second base on a groundout. A groundout straight back to the pitcher made the second out. Megan Feuerstein (SO/Huntington Beach, CA) made a diving catch behind first base to keep the game at 1-0. Craig broke a quiet sixth inning for Concordia as she deposited a 0-2 pitch just fair down the left field line to tie the game at one. Goldstein was able to force two groundouts to waste a leadoff single in the sixth, and Concordia went quiet in the seventh. Goldstein set them down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the seventh, sending the game to extra innings.
Merjano walked with two out in the eighth, and Hannah Howell (SO/Citrus Heights, CA) flied out to center, just short of putting the Eagles up 3-1. Goldstein worked around a two-out walk in the bottom and in the ninth it was Craig again. She led off with a deep solo shot over the centerfield fence to put the Eagles ahead. Feuerstein followed with a single, moved to second on a groundout, and scored on Rachel Prentice's RBI-double in the left center gap for the 3-1 edge. In the bottom of the ninth, Goldstein allowed a one-out single up the middle and two-out single to short, but Howell made the unassisted out at third on a groundout to end the game.
"Every game against Simpson is a battle, they have a great team," Concordia head coach Crystal Rosenthal. "I think our experience in big games played a key role today."
The Eagles improved to 50-5, remaining a perfect 5-0 in Opening Round play dating back to last season, and won 50 games for the third-straight year, the only three years in school history. Simpson drops to 36-7 and will play for a chance to advance to the Opening Round Championship at 3:30 pm today. Concordia waits in the championship tomorrow at noon, and whoever gets there needs to beat the Eagles twice. Watch the entire tournament live at http://client.stretchinternet.com/client/cui.portal#.
(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.
For more information on the 2014 NAIA Softball National Championship, click here.