|Madonna University (32-15)||0||1||0||0||4||2||2||9||13||1|
|Taylor University (30-18)||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||4||0|
|Livonia, MI Sparks Park|
|Madonna University||Pitching||Taylor University|
|Madonna University||Indv. Stats||Taylor University|
|#5 Comerzan,Kerstyn||Doubles||#5 Courtney Moriarty|
|#24 Giordano,Bri||Home Runs||None|
COLUMBIA, Ky. – After a tough loss to begin the day, the fourth-seeded Madonna University softball team rebounded for a 9-0 beat down of third-ranked Taylor University (Ind.) to advance to the NAIA Softball National Championship Opening Round final against second-seed Corban University (Ore.).
The Crusaders played as the visitors for the first time at Marilyn D. Sparks Park in the Columbia Bracket on Tuesday night and improved to 32-15 as Bri Giordano (SR/Plymouth, Mich.) cracked the first home run of the tournament for the Blue and Gold and Morgan Kaiser (SR/Flat Rock, Mich.) recorded her 200th career hit.
It was not the best start for Madonna as the offense went down in order in the first and a fielding error and miscommunication on a bunt allowed the first two Trojans to reach, however, Erin Combs (SR/Imlay City, Mich.) pitched out of trouble and the offense gave her some support.
Julia Cavagnini (JR/Livonia, Mich.) continued to hit as she singled up the middle with one out and moved to second on Kayla Rebain (SR/Plymouth, Mich.)'s groundout. Breanna Keethler (SR/Flat Rock, Mich.) followed with a two-out base hit to right center to score the games' first run.
That is all the support Combs needed, as she did not allow a runner to touch third base in the contest. She allowed just four hits and struck out three over six innings while Paige Montague (JR/Clio, Mich.) tossed another perfect inning of relief and recorded a strikeout to end the game.
"We hit the ball better and played tough defense," said Combs when asked what made the difference in game two. "We also scored early and put the pressure on them. We need to do the same thing tomorrow because [Corban} is a good hitting team and we know we are going to have to make some plays."
Although that is all the runs that were needed, the offense provided much more. In the fifth, Kerstyn Comerzan (SO/Woodhaven, Mich.) doubled off the base of the wall in left field and scored on a one out singled by Kaiser. Nicky Salloum (SR/Livonia, Mich.) recorded her first hit of the opening round with two outs and brought up Giordano who planted a 2-0 pitch well beyond the left centerfield fence for a three-run home run.
"I knew it was a big game for us and I had to do whatever I could to get the runs in," said Giordano of her home run. "It felt really good coming off the bat and once I knew it was over I couldn't have been happier to be able to extend the lead. But I couldn't have done it without my teammates getting on base."
The Crusaders added some insurance runs in the sixth. Rebain singled to lead off the inning and, after a Keethler sacrifice and Bria DeBono (SR/Lapeer, Mich.) walk, Kaiser singled to load the bases. Mikey Kish (SR/Allen Park, Mich.) followed with a base hit up the middle for the 7-0 lead.
It was an eventful seventh for the Crusader offense as a single, three walks and a double play added to the lead. Cavagnini led off with a single then walks to Rebain, Haley Izworski (SO/West Branch, Mich.) and Halee Warren (SO/Canton, Mich.) scored a run before Rebain scored on a double play.
Kaiser then followed with her 200th career hit before the Crusaders got a perfect seventh for the win.
"I didn't even know I was close to getting it, but it means a lot," said Kaiser on the milestone hit. "It's really exciting knowing I was able to achieve such a huge milestone. Going 4-for-5 today felt good. I was in a slump the last couple games and wasn't making good contact, but today it was nice to be able to keep the line moving with everyone else hitting so well."
Kaiser's 200 hits rank seventh in school history while her career .408 batting average, .458 on-base percentage and 33 stolen bases are all program records.
In all, Madonna tallied 13 hits in the win led by Kaiser's four. She also scored a run and drove in one. Salloum and Cavagnini had two hits each with the former scoring once while the latter scored twice. Giordano finished 1-for-4 with three RBI and a run scored.
Madonna moves on to face Corban in the championship game on Wednesday, May 17 at 1 p.m. EST. In order to book their ticket to the NAIA Softball World Series for the first time in the opening round era, the Crusaders must beat the Warriors twice, with the "if necessary" game scheduled for 3 p.m. on Wednesday.
Live audio coverage of the game(s) 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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