Opponents set for men’s, women’s basketball teams
St. Xavier University’s men’s and women’s basketball teams last Wednesday learned the identities of their first-round opponents in their respective NAIA Division II national tournaments.
The men were to meet Cincinnati Christian University this past Wednesday at the College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Mo. The Golden Eagles, who qualified for the 32-school national event for the first time, were unranked in the final national poll, while the Cougars occupied the No. 7 position.
Each club captured the championship of its conference tournament, SXU (29-4) doing so with an 85-74 upset of top-ranked Cardinal Stritch in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference final. Cincinnati Christian scored an equally impressive title-game win by beating No. 2-ranked Indiana University-Southeast for the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference crown.
IU-Southeast knocked the Cougars out of the 2013 NAIA National Championship in the second round.
The Cougars women, ranked sixth in NAIA Division II, also got underway this past Wednesday in Sioux City, Iowa, where they squared off with No. 7-ranked College of the Ozarks. Both schools are quite familiar with the national tourney — SXU is making its 12th consecutive appearance in it, while the Bobcats have received 20 invitations in all, including the last 13 years in a row.
The Cougars, who received an at-large berth to the tournament, have gotten to at least the second round in six of the past eight years.
Cougars senior Brad Karp was one of 10 athletes chosen to represent NAIA Division II in an all-star game on March 22 at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo. Those 10 players will take on a team comprised of NAIA Division I athletes.
Karp leads SXU in per-game scoring (25.9 point), rebounds (8.2) and steals (2.5).
“What a tremendous honor for a wonderful young man,” Cougars coach Tom O’Malley said. “Brad has had an amazing career here over these last four years, and I’m glad that the NAIA is recognizing him for his achievements. To have the chance to represent the Division II side of NAIA basketball as an all-star is a special privilege, especially in the event’s first year, and I can’t think of a player more deserving.”
Kicking off their 2014 season at the National Training Center Spring Games hosted by two-time Olympic gold medalist Dr. Dot Richardson, the NAIA No. 5-ranked Cougars used strong pitching to get off to a 4-0 start after two games on Friday and two more on Saturday in Clermont, Fla.
Both senior Megan Nonnemacher and sophomore sister Nicole Nonnemacher picked up where they left off last season. Megan Nonnemacher threw a pair of shutouts in her first two outings, while her sibling notched a whitewash in her opener and allowed just two earned runs en route to another win on Saturday.
In Friday’s 6-0 victory over Point Park University, Nicole Nonnemacher racked up 17 strikeouts, surrendered just two hits and walked one while firing her shutout. Junior center fielder Shannon Lauret and freshman shortstop Savannah Kinsella paced SXU’s attack as they went a combined 5-for-8 with three runs tallied.
Lauret was 3-for-4 and scored once, while Kinsella finished the game 2-for-4 with a double and two runs.
After taking a 2-0 lead over the first four innings, the Cougars iced the victory with four more runs in the top of the seventh.
Friday’s late contest was a pitchers’ duel between Megan Nonnemacher and Grace College’s Alex Shipley. Nonnemacher logged a 1-0 victory when sophomore second baseman Kasey Kanaga singled in the seventh and eventually crossed the plate on a throwing error.
Kanaga finished with two hits in support of Nonnemacher, who scattered five hits and issued only two free passes.
After giving up four runs in the bottom of the first inning, the Cougars rallied on Saturday to claim a 9-5 victory over Grace in their early game.
Not only was Nicole Nonnemacher tough on the mound, but she helped her cause tremendously at the plate by going 4-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI. Junior first baseman Amanda Hainlen added a triple, two runs and two RBI for SXU, which plated all nine of its runs over the third and fourth frames to take control of the contest.
In the circle, Nonnemacher allowed 10 hits and three walks, but just two earned runs. She struck out seven.
In the late game, Megan Nonnemacher threw a three-hit shutout with a career-best 14 strikeouts to lead the Cougars to a 1-0 victory over Cornerstone University in eight innings. Nicole Nonnemacher provided the game-winning single in the bottom of the eighth.
Despite 12 kills and six total blocks from senior middle blocker J.T. O’Connell, the Cougars lost a hard-fought Great Lakes Division battle with No. 10-ranked Lourdes University (Ohio) Saturday afternoon at the Shannon Center.
SXU (3-12, 3-4) dropped the opening set, 25-21, but bounced back with a 25-19 win in the second game. However, the Gray Wolves went ahead in the match with a 25-18 triumph in Game 3 and then fought back from a 14-6 deficit to take the fourth set 25-21. The Cougars’ offense struggled late in the match, totaling just four kills while making five hitting errors in the final set.
Sophomore middle blocker Sam Kull backed O’Connell with 10 kills, three assisted blocks and two service aces, while freshman setter Moises Lopez led SXU with 38 assists. Also chipping in was freshman outside hitter Sean Barry, who posted eight kills and team-best totals of four aces and nine digs.
Junior outside hitter Jo’Lon Clark was Lourdes’ top performer with 15 kills and two aces.
The Cougars were at home again this past Tuesday, when they hosted Cincinnati Christian in another Great Lakes Division match. It was also SXU’s Senior and Parents Night.”
Kicking off their annual spring-break trip last weekend with two games on both Saturday and Sunday, the Cougars opened with a 1-0 win over Spring Arbor University in 10 innings.
SXU’s luck wasn’t as good after that, though, as it fell to defeat three times. Pinning losses on the Cougars (1-7) were Webber International University (5-2 on Saturday) and Aquinas College in both ends of a Sunday twinbill (5-4 and 8-6).
Senior Scott Vachon pitched a three-hitter over eight innings and fanned nine to lead SXU to its victory. He gave up only one base-on-balls. Freshman reliever Adrian Luna was equally sharp as he tossed two perfect frames while striking out two batters.
The Cougars picked up their run in the bottom of the 10th when pinch runner Steve Carrabotta scored from third on a passed ball. Bryan Polak’s double had put a man in scoring position for SXU.
Senior Brad Myjak had three hits and tallied twice in Saturday’s second game, but the Cougars had little else besides that going for them offensively versus Webber. SXU dug itself an early hole by yielding five runs to its opponent over the first three innings.
Polak (double) and freshman Tom Hayes (bases-loaded walk) were credited with the Cougars’ RBI. Junior hurler Dan Wetzel got tagged with the pitching loss.
SXU jumped ahead 4-0 in Saturday’s opener against Aquinas, but did not score after the second stanza. Meanwhile, the Saints chipped away at their deficit and notched the game-winning marker in the bottom of the ninth on a single.
Carrabotta went 2-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored to fuel the Cougars’ offense. Senior Chris Klein performed well on the mound while gaining no decision, as he whiffed eight, walked no one and scattered four hits over seven innings. Only two of the four runs charged to him were earned.
Luna absorbed the defeat in relief of Klein.
Sophomore Alec Barnhart was SXU’s Game 2 headliner at the plate with a 3-for-4 effort that included two RBI and one run. Senior Tom Keating also drove in a pair of runs.
After spotting the Saints six runs in the top of the first inning, the Cougars clawed their way back and finally tied the contest at 6-all in the bottom of the seventh on Myjak’s RBI single. Keating had a two-run double in the bottom of the fourth and Barnhart recorded a two-RBI single in the sixth to propel the comeback.
In the top of the ninth, however, four walks and a single worked together to supply Aquinas with the two deciding tallies. Senior Dan Maton took the loss in relief of freshman right-hander Jeremy Dryier, who pitched the first five innings and allowed five hits, two earned runs and four walks while striking out two.
SXU was slated to continue its trip this past Tuesday with a game against No. 25-ranked Ave Maria University.