Combs, Solid Defense Lead @MUCrusadersSB to Shutout of No. 6 Lindsey Wilson
Softball - Mon, May 15, 2017
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(6)Lindsey Wilson
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Columbia, KY Sparks Park
Lindsey WilsonPitchingMadonna University
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OPENING ROUND HOMEPAGE | LIVE VIDEO ($) | LIVE AUDIO (FREE) | LIVE STATS (FREE) | PHOTOS

COLUMBIA, Ky. – Erin Combs (SR/Imlay City, Mich.) allowed just four hits, Kerstyn Comerzan (SO/Woodhaven, Mich.) delivered a sacrifice fly and the fourth-seeded Madonna University softball team played flawless defense en route to a 1-0 upset win over sixth-ranked and top-seeded Lindsey Wilson College at Marilyn D. Sparks Park on day one of the NAIA Opening Round.

The Crusaders, who improved to 31-14 on the season, tallied seven hits and drew one walk while Combs limited the Blue Raiders (39-12) to four hits with three walks and three strikeouts.

"Our pitching and hitting were great, our defense was even better and we have a good mindset heading into tomorrow's contest," said Crusaders assistant Mike Baum.

Combs was solid in the circle and made pitches when she needed to, escaping a major jam in the fourth with some stellar defense in what was her 21st complete game in 26 chances this season. The senior improved to 22-7 on the season and dropped her ERA to 1.44.

"I threw a lot of off-speed to set the batters up and then went high and they were chasing those pitches," said Combs. "We knew we'd have to mix in some off-speed pitches because when we played them two years ago they were a really good hitting team. There was a tight zone today so I walked a few more than normal, but other than that, I felt good. It was great to get that first win, especially against the sixth ranked team in the country."

Kayla Rebain (SR/Plymouth, Mich.) paced the Crusaders' offense with a 2-for-3 day while Julia Cavagnini (JR/Livonia, Mich.) scored the only run and finished 1-for-2 with a walk. Comerzan had the lone RBI on a sacrifice fly while four others recorded hits.

Madonna's offense was the first to break through in the second as Cavagnini singled up the middle, a line drive just over the pitcher's glove. Rebain followed with a line drive off the top of the right centerfield fence. It look as though Comerzan had a two-out double, but the Blue Raiders centerfielder made a nice catch at the fence to end the inning.

It was an action-packed fourth inning that really turned the tide. The Blue Raiders recorded a pair of one-out base hits before two stellar catches ended the threat. Nicky Salloum (SR/Livonia, Mich.) tracked down a foul ball along the left field foul line, making an over-the-shoulder grab for the second out before Morgan Kaiser (SR/Flat Rock, Mich.) chased down a line drive near the line for the final out.

"Keep going, keep hustling until you feel the ball in you glove," said Nicky Salloum when asked what was on her mind on a catch the changed the game.

Combs, who was the biggest benefactor of the defensive gems, added, "They were huge because that took the wind right out of their sails. They were well hit balls and we came up with big catches."

With the momentum on their side, the Crusader bats went to work. Cavagnini drew a one out walk then back-to-back singles by Rebain and Breanna Keethler (SR/Flat Rock, Mich.) loaded the bases. Comerzan then lifted a fly ball to right-center to score Cavagnini.

"Walking up to the plate I was thinking about what I had to do to get on base and just took advantage of the good pitches she threw," said Cavagnini of her day at the plate. "Once I got to third I was prepared to go on anything and Kerstyn had the perfect sacrifice fly. I'm excited that we came out of the game with the win."

Combs sat down 11 of the final 12 batters she faced to seal the victory and a date with 14th-ranked Corban University (Ore.).

Corban scored 10 runs in the final five innings, which included a six run ninth, to overcome a 5-1 deficit and beat Taylor University (Ind.), 11-7 in the first game of the day.

Madonna and Corban will meet in the winner's bracket on Tuesday, May 15 at 1 p.m. EST with the winner booking their ticket to the opening round championship game on Wednesday at 1 p.m. The loser will face either Taylor or Lindsey Wilson at 6 p.m. The Trojans and Blue Raiders will play their elimination game at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

Live audio coverage of the Madonna game will be available free of charge via the Madonna Athletics Network while live video of the tournament is available via the Lindsey Wilson Sports Network for $7.95 per contest or $19.95 for the entire tournament. Audio and video coverage is available at madonnacrusaders.com/live.

Live stats of all games will be done via Dakstats with links available here.

For those planning to attend the games at Marilyn D. Sparks Park, admission is $5 per day and free for children under six years of age.

For more information on the 2017 NAIA Softball National Championships, click here.

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SOFTBALL
Record: 0-0 Home: 0-0 Away: 0-0 WHAC: 0-0