Eagles News
Softball - Thu, May. 30, 2013
2013 NAIA National Champions (Columbus, GA)
2013 NAIA National Champions (Columbus, GA)
(1) Concordia
(10) Spring Hill College

Eagles Win First National Championship With 8-3 Win Over Spring Hill

(Box Score) (Interview Video) (Bracket) An offensive explosion in the bottom of the fourth inning was the difference- maker as No. 1 seed Concordia (Calif.) defeated No. 10 seed Spring Hill (Ala.), 8-3, at the 2013 NAIA Softball National Championship finale at the South Commons Softball Complex on Thursday.  The win was Concordia's first-ever national championship in softball.

Spring Hill's freshman pitcher Caroline Sagrera struck out Concordia's Emily Craig, then Annette Merjano hit a sacrifice bunt to advance pinch runner Rachel Prentice. Bryana Simpson was hit by a pitch and Morgan Reiter reached base on a walk. When Hannah Howell doubled down the left field line, Prentice, Simpson and Reiter all scored. Then, Caitrin Debaun reached base on a walk and advanced thanks to a Chanele Dresser bunt. When Jenna Jorgenson singled to center, both Howell and Debaun scored to give the Eagles a dominating lead 7-2 lead.

"I fouled off a couple bad pitches and was just trying to make something happen," Hannah Howell said.  "I caught one bad pitch and took advantage of it."

Concordia head coach Crystal Rosenthal wasn't worried when her team fell behind 2-0 in the first inning.

"We don't get rattled very easily, and we play all seven innings," Rosenthal said. "Our concept at bat is to get on base any way you can and have a quality at bat. You are not out of the game until the game is over. We looked a little shaky, but (senior pitcher Katie) Cotta kept us in the game and we figured out a way to swing our bats a little better today."

Cotta struck out six on Thursday and finished her Concordia career at 47-3 in two seasons, with two GSAC Pitcher of the Year awards.  She set an NAIA single-season record with 11 no-hitters this season and finishes one short of tying the career record with 15.  The championship's most valuable player, Concordia right fielder Debaun, scored two runs with two hits, including a double, and one RBI, and was seven-for12 on the week, while scoring seven runs.  Jorgenson had two knocks and three RBI.  Howell had two hits and three RBI, including the game-changing double.  Bryana Simpson and Howell both stole bases.

"I am so proud of Katie Cotta and the growth she has shown," Rosenthal said.  "We loved having her here these last two years.  I want to thank our administration and our past players for giving our girls the chance to shine."

Concordia senior pitcher Katie Cotta moved to 27-2 and Spring Hill's Sagrera finished 39-11 on the year.  Concordia had never played Spring Hill before the championship, but left Columbus with a 2-0 record against the Badgers.  The Eagles were perfect all week, moving through the championship 4-0.  The Eagles had never advanced this far in the National Championship, claiming the title in their first title game appearance. 

"This is one of the most amazing feelings I have ever had," Annette Merjano said.

Jade Bourgeois was the leading Badger with a 2-for-3 effort from the plate.

"I'm speechless," Jenna Jorgenson said.  "We worked so hard to get to this point and we left everything on the field."

Cotta forced two quick outs in the first inning, but a single and walk started the two-out rally for Spring Hill.  An error let one run score and another error saw the lead climb to 2-0 early for SHU.  Debaun doubled to right center to leadoff for CU, she was sacrificed to third, and scored on Groom's two-out RBI single to left center.  Both teams went quickly in the second.  A SHU runner reached third on a walk and error in the third inning, but Cotta forced a groundout to third to escape.  Morgan Reiter opened the bottom half with a walk and a sacrifice moved the runner.  Debaun singled into right field to tie the game at two.  The Eagles left a runner on second.

"This is a great feeling and I've never felt anything like this before," Morgan Reiter said.  "I wouldn't have it any other way."

A lineout double play to second base helped Cotta work around a leadoff single in the fourth.  Emily Craig was hit by a pitch to open the fourth, and after a sacrifice, Simpson was hit and Reiter walked.  Howell worked the count full and fouled off four straight pitches before depositing the ball off the left field wall to clear the bases with the freshman's biggest hit as an Eagle.  After a sacrifice and a walk, Jorgenson singled to center to make it 7-2.  Cotta put the first two down in the fifth and worked around a walk and ground-rule double with an inning-ending strikeout.  A hit batter, and two wild pitches, allowed SHU to score one in the sixth.  Howell singled to lead off the bottom half, stole second, and scored on Jorgenson's single down the right field line to make it 8-3.  Cotta forced a pop out, hit a batter, induced a fly out, and in perfect fashion, struck the final batter out swinging as Concordia claimed their title.

"We have had some up and downs this year, but we used those downs as our fuel to get better every day," Emily Craig said.

The Eagles ended the season on a 19-game winning streak.  2012 was the year Concordia jumped to the top of the rankings in the NAIA, but success on the national stage still eluded them.  The 2013 squad vanquished any ghosts with a perfect run through the National Championship.  It marked the seventh national championship in school history (Women's Cross Country 2000, Men's Basketball 2003, Baseball 2011, Men's Basketball 2012, Women's Volleyball 2012, Men's Volleyball 2013) and it is the third this athletic year.  Concordia University becomes one of the rare schools in the NAIA with spring National Championships in baseball and softball.

"I couldn't ask for two better years here," Katie Cotta said.  "I am so blessed to be here with these coaches and players, who are all my friends."

CU must say goodbye to seniors Breanna SilzerKatie Cotta, Morgan ReiterShainna GroomCourtney Young, and Bryana Simpson, all important cogs in building this program.  No questions remain about the validity of Concordia's near two-year sweep of the #1 ranking.  The Eagles came to Columbus as the favorite and played that way, loading the hardware back to Irvine, CA.  The Eagles had already established themselves as the West Coast power in the NAIA, add the other 49 states to that resume as well.

"I'm said it's over, but what a way to end it and what a great day," Shainna Groom said.

The championship is a 10-team, double-elimination event hosted by the Columbus Sports Council. This was the 33rd annual championship and it took place in the state of Georgia for the first time in NAIA softball history.

"We bought into everything the coaches told us and there is no better way to end it," Bryana Simpson said.

For more information on the national championship, click here.

2013 Softball All-Championship Team
Lindsey Booker, Reinhardt (Ga.), INF
Katie Cotta, Concordia (Calif.), P
Cassie Daniels, Auburn Montgomery (Ala.), P
Caitrin Debaun, Concordia (Calif.), OF
Dominique Hannah, Lee (Tenn.), OF
Karisa Hendrix, Williams Baptist (Ark.), P
Hannah Howell, Concordia (Calif.), INF
Jenna Jorgenson, Concordia (Calif.), INF
Shelbi Legg, Oklahoma City, OF
Courtney McGee, Lubbock Christian (Texas), P
Alex Miller, Cal State San Marcos, INF
Nicole Nonnemacher, Saint Xavier (Ill.), P
Mariha Partman, Spring Hill (Ala.), INF
Caroline Sagrera, Spring Hill (Ala.), P
Megan Sullivan, Lubbock Christian (Texas), INF
Felicia Woodard, Williams Baptist (Ark.), OF

Championship Most Valuable Player: Caitrin Debaun, Concordia (Calif.) 


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