Jeff Vorva's Extra Point: Nonne better -- I say SXU pitcher is the best of all time

  • Written by Jeff Vorva




At the end of March, I wrote a column asking if St. Xavier University pitcher Nicole Nonnemacher could be the greatest pitcher in NAIA history.

At the beginning of June, I had my answer.

Before Nonnemacher, who was huge in guiding SXU to a second-place finish in the NAIA World Series last week, burst onto the scene, a case could be made for Rachel Murray being the best ever.

Murray pitched for Union University in Tennessee from 1999-2002 and is the NAIA leader in victories with 126. She racked up an NAIA best 68 shutouts and 16 no-hitters. Her career strikeout total of 1,257 ranked fourth.

Great, great numbers for the downstate Herrin native. Who knows if her win total will ever get beat?

Murray was inducted into the UU Hall of Fame in 2015.

After college, she had a tryout with the USA Olympic Softball team, was an assistant softball coach at the University of Mobile and went to India on a medical mission trip. She is married and her last name is now Buchanan and she is a physical therapist assistant in Houston.

Nonnemacher, a Bloomington native, finished her career with 103 wins, 53 shutouts and managed to pass Murray in strikeouts with 1,392 and tied her in no-hitters with 16. The strikeout total is second in NAIA history to Oklahoma City’s Lily Lavelle, who had 1,411 from 2009-2012.

Nonnemacher also has two perfect games including one against Trinity International in which she struck out all 15 batters she faced. She’s the second player in NAIA history to do that. She also struck out 42 batters in a doubleheader against a strong St. Ambrose team this year. She is the only player in NAIA history to do that.

Her best performance, in my humble opinion, came in the World Series on May 30 when when she beat top-seeded Oklahoma City University, 1-0, in the third round. Oklahoma came into the game with 542 runs in 65 games and Nonnemacher shut its hitters out and was one strike away from a no-hitter. It was the first time Oklahoma was shut out in 2016.

Even though Oklahoma came back out of the losers bracket to  beat SXU 2-0 and 5-0 to win the World Series last Thursday, Nonnemacher’s body of work was still strong enough as she was named NAIA Pitcher of the Year a third consecutive time and named to the NAIA All-America team a fourth time.

Catcher Brittany Plimmer was on the NAIA second team and coach Myra Minuskin was happy for both leaders, who helped the Cougars to a 46-10-1 mark.

“Nicole is hands down the best player we have ever had in our program and ends her career as one of the most decorated players in the history of NAIA softball,” said Minuskin.  “I have had so many people tell me throughout her four years at Saint Xavier that she is the most talented pitcher they have ever seen and I have to agree with them.  Brittany was also a huge reason why we had such an amazing season.  She is the best defensive catcher we have ever had and is also a fierce competitor.  I’m so proud of both of these exceptionally talented young women.” 


That pretty much seals it for me. I hereby proclaim Nonnemacher the GOAT – greatest of all time – when it comes to NAIA pitchers.

There was Nonne better.



Chicago soccer notes and news

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


 Photo by Jeff Vorva

Gilberto, shown during a preseason practice, has taken some time away from the team for personal reasons.



WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday

WHERE: Toyota Park, Bridgeview

WHY: This will be a fourth-round game in the Lamar Hunt Cup before the Fire returns to Major League Soccer action June 18.


WHEN: 5 p.m., Sunday

WHERE: Toyota Park, Bridgeview



LAST TIME: Portland beat the Red Stars, 2-1, Aug. 9 in front of an announced crowd of 15,858 in Portland. Alyssa Mautz had the lone goal for the Red Stars.

Gilberto’s season put on hold for personal reasons

The only player who was scheduled to make a million bucks on the Chicago Fire has a hazy future with the team.

Gilberto, the highest-paid player on the team at $1.14 million according to has just two assists and multiple reports say the team is trying to buy out his contract. He missed the Fire’s last game against defending MLS champion Portland May 28 as he took personal time off, according to coach Veljko Paunovic.

General Manager Nelson Rodriguez said Monday the Gilberto told him he was “not in a state of mind” to return but added the organization has not discussed  buying out Gilberto’s contract  nor has had discussions with a team from Brazil.

The GM also said that if Gilberto doesn’t fulfill his obligations, the tam will discuss the situation with Major League Soccer and the player’s union.

Gilberto, 26, had five goals in 10 appearances for the Fire in 2015.

Kennedy Igboananike is the second-highest paid Fire player at $901,000 while David Accam is third at $771,000.

Orlando City’s Ricardo Kaka is the highest-paid MLS player at $7.1 million this year. Giberto ranked 21st in the league. There are 22 players slated to make $1 million or more in 2016.

Cup runneth over

The Fire enters the Lamar Hunt Cup competition in the fourth round by hosting the Indy Eleven on Wednesday.  

Since 1998, the Fire have compiled a 39-13-4 record in Open Cup play, including a 26-1-1 record in matches played in Illinois, reaching the semifinal round 11 times and the final six times.

The Fire previously hoisted the Dewar Trophy four times, in 1998, 2000, 2003 and 2006. 

Red Star scores big goal against Japan

Chicago Red Stars defender Julie Johnston scored a goal in the 27th minute Sunday in the U.S. Women’s National Team’s 2-0 exhibition victory over Japan in Cleveland in front of a crowd of 23,535.

Christen Press, another member of the Red Stars, also played in the game.

Red Stars goalie Alyssa Naeher did not get in the game nor Friday’s 3-3 tie against Japan as Hope Solo was in the net for both matches.

All three return to the Red Stars on  Sunday, when they host Portland in a battle for first place in the National Women’s Soccer League.


Oak Lawn and Richards among five area regional softball champs

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Photo by Jeff Vorva

Allyson Terrell and her Richards teammates won their fourth regional title in six years after beating Shepard at Hinsdale South.


For the third time in history, Oak Lawn and Richards softball teams won regional championships the same season.

On Saturday sixth-seeded Oak Lawn knocked out third-seeded Mother McAuley, 2-1 to capture the Morton Class 4A Sectional on the same day that fifth-seeded Richards upended fourth-seeded Shepard, 8-3, to win the Hinsdale South Class 4A Regional crown.

Both Oak Lawn schools also won regional softball crowns the same year in 2005 and 2007. This year, the two teams also have identical 21-11 marks.

Oak Lawn won its sixth regional crown overall and third since 2005 by nipping the Mighty Macs as pitcher Mia Loy helped hold McAuley’s offense down.

The Mighty Macs beat Washington, 16-2 in the semifinals on May 24. Amy Balich’s three-run homer was the big blow for McAuley.

Oak Lawn ended Stagg’s season in the semifinals with a 4-1 victory as Marisa Loy fired the win and whiffed nine Stagg batters.

Richards won its 13th regional title and fourth in the last six years thanks in part to Becky Wujcik’s three-RBI performance.

Shepard beat host Hinsdale South, 5-0 in the semifinals on May 24 with Heather O’Kelly collecting four hits.

Richards knocked out Riverside-Brookfield, 3-0, in the semis with Sara Kiziak firing the shutout.

At Lyons: Eighth-seeded Lyons Township provided one of the biggest upsets of the postseason, knocking off top-seeded and defending Class 4A champion Marist, 5-1, Saturday.

The RedHawks opened the postseason with a 19-0 victory over Eisenhower on May 24 as Cassie Lindmark drove in four runs.

At Reavis: Sandburg won its 26th regional title and eighth in a row with a 19-3 win over Reavis on Saturday in Class 4A action. Brittany Beveridge drove in four runs in the game.

The Eagles, who finished second in the state in Class 4A in 2014, opened the postseason with a 15-1 victory over Kennedy in the semifinals on May 24.

At Evergreen Park: In Class 3A action Evergreen Park won its 16th regional title and fourth in the past six years with a 7-0 victory over Chicago Jones on Saturday as Maddie Vojacek fired the shutout win.

The Mustangs beat Morgan Park, 16-0, on May 24 to advance to the title game.

At Chicago Christian: The hosts won their sixth straight title but first in Class 3A with a 6-2 victory over the Chicago Agriculture Science School. Brooke Veldman drove in three runs.

The Knights opened the postseason with a 19-3 victor over Instituto Health Science Charter on May 24.



Fire and Chicago Red Stars analysis and notes

  • Written by Alison Moran



 Photo by Jeff Vorva

After missing time with a knee injury and a suspension, the Fire’s David Accam played his first game in Toyota Park since the season opener March 6 and scored a goal Saturday against Portland. 



Three months ago, the Chicago Fire shut out the reigning Major League Soccer champion Portland Timbers at Providence Park in preseason play. Since then, both teams have struggled to find momentum, on and off the pitch.

As they met again Saturday night at Toyota Park, both were coming off wins -- the Fire's ego-boosting 1-0 shutout over the Western Conference cellar-dwelling Houston Dynamo (3-7-2) and Portland's 4-2 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps (6-6-2.)

Both teams came away satisfied, if not overjoyed, with a 1-1 draw at Toyota Park.

Portland (4-6-4) came into the game minus the offense of midfielder Darrington Nagbe and defender Jermaine Taylor, who were called up to serve their respective men's national teams.

The Fire (2-5-5) took advantage of the absences. "We started with three midfielders to close the passage to the middle," said Fire Coach Veljko Paunovic.

But in the 18th minute, the Timbers' Diego Valeri found the passage to the goal by miscuing the Fire's defense, converting on a right-footed shot into the far left side of the net.

That could have spelled trouble because one of the problems of the Fire's campaign has been its lack of offense. The Fire's underwhelming, nine-goal effort in its first 11 matches has in part been the absence of forward David Accam, who missed several games to a knee injury and another game with a suspension after an incident with another player against the New York Red Bulls.

Accam made his presence felt by Saturday evening by evening as he scored in the 20th minute, assisted by Kennedy Igboananike. Accam and Igboananike combined for nine shots in the game.

The Fire's solid defense kept the Timbers scoreless in the second half.

Matt Polster, who was chosen Man of the Match by fans voting through an app, had three shot attempts and two blocked shots.

 "It's the closest we've come to putting together a full 90 minutes (this season)," he said.

"I thought Chicago was the better team tonight," admitted Portland Coach Caleb Porter. “We could've done a better job, but we'll take the point."

 Fire bits

- Fire defenseman Rodrigo Ramos was taken off the field with a possible concussion in the 82nd minute.

- Yellow cards were issued to Ramos, along with teammate Johan Kappelhoff. Timbers yellow cards were issued to Chris Klute and Liam Ridgewell.

 -In Chattanooga, Tennessee, the Fire’s Premier Development League team dethroned the reigning champion Chattanooga CFC 2-1 in double overtime Saturday to clinch the Steinbrecher Cup at the US Soccer Amateur National Championship. Mark Segbers had two goals for the Fire.




WHEN: 5 p.m., Sunday

WHERE: Toyota Park, Bridgeview



LAST TIME: Portland beat the Red Stars, 2-1, Aug. 9 in front of an announced crowd of 15,858 in Portland. Alyssa Mautz had the lone goal for the Red Stars.

Red Stars turn in ‘worst performance of the year’ in tie with Sky Blue

How did the first-place Chicago Red Stars fare Sunday against the struggling Sky Blue FC, without Alyssa Naeher in goal, Coppertone spokeswoman Christen Press at forward, and Julie Johnston defending?

Their coach called it their “worst performance of the year.”

On paper, the Red Stars appeared to have every advantage. Sky Blue FC came into Toyota Park having won only two games this season. It had a new head coach in Christy Holly, who replaced New Zealand-born goalkeeper Erin Nayler with Caroline Stanley, formerly of the Seattle Reign FC. Veteran defender Christie Rampone, 40, was having fitness issues. And on top of all of that, defender Kelley O'Hara was called up to the USA National Team.

In 'Ode on a Grecian Urn,' the poet John Keats wrote, "If beauty is truth, and truth, beauty, that is all ye need to know."

If so, the Red Stars (4-1-2) have a beautiful-minded coach in Rory Dames.

As the stars were away, preparing for a pair of friendlies against Japan with the USA Women's National Team, Dames summarized the 1-1 draw at Toyota Park taking away one positive: "In our worst performance of the year, we still took a point out of it," he said.

But he wasn’t a happy man.

"We were poor in the game," said Dames. "We couldn't build momentum. We were way too slow. The biggest difference, without our stars, was in our quality of play."

Despite the draw, the Chicago Red Stars remain at the top of the NWSL and host the second-place Portland Thorns Saturday.

The game started promisingly enough. In the 34th minute, Red Stars forward Sofia Huerta took a pass from a New Jersey native, midfielder Danielle Colaprico, sending the ball past Stanley to the far side of the net.

For nearly 30 minutes, the Red Stars defended well, but Stanley deflected several scoring attempts by the Red Stars from going past her.

More frustrating for Huerta were two scoring attempts that got away. Just four minutes after scoring the goal, Huerta's curling shot tipped over the bar. Midway through the second half, defender Arin Gilliland set up a long shot to Huerta, which flicked by Hoy before going narrowly right.

In the second half, Holly substituted British-born rookie Leah Galton, a rookie so new, her name only appears on a supplemental Sky Blue roster and veteran defender Natasha 'Tasha' Kai. In the 69th minute, midfielder Taylor Lytle got the ball on the right flank and passed it to Galton, whose foot was positioned perfectly to shoot the equalizer past Red Stars goalkeeper Michelle Dalton, landing at the back of the net to help deny the Red Stars three points.



Jeff Vorva's Extra Point: Win or lose, this is great way to end regular baseball season

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Two days after the excitement of a bunch of much-publicized and high caliber games played at Standard Bank Stadium for the Do It Stevie’s Way baseball tournament, there was another event at the Crestwood park.

This one was low-key. It was one game. There weren’t a bunch of media members there -- only me.

But it was still pretty special.

Evergreen Park High School’s baseball team hosted its second Tony Knight Night at the park. Evergreen Park played Marist on a summer-like evening on May 23 to close out the regular season for both teams.

I never met Tony Knight, who died in 2014 at age 29, but I wish I did.

Last year, I covered the opening of the Evergreen Park Athletic Association Little League season and it was a Tony Knight love-fest with people saying nice things about the man and his mother, Mary Ellen, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Tony was a former EP student who loved Evergreen Park sports and was a fixture at most sporting events ling after he graduated.

His obituary said “His smiles, dimples and laugh were unforgettable.’’

Before the Marist game, there was an announcement about why we were all there that included “He had an enthusiasm for everything that he did – we should all strive to live the way Tony did in our daily lives.’’

The idea for the game is to feed the Tony Knight School Spirit Scholarship fund. For the past two seasons, $1,000 of scholarship money was donated in Knight’s name. In 2014, Mike Rizzo earned the scholarship and this year, Moraine Valley Community College-bound Connor McKeever earned the check.

The only think to spoil what seemed like a perfect night for Knight was Marist beating the Mustangs, 13-1 in the game. I don’t think Tony would have enjoyed that.

But don’t make the RedHawks out to be the bad guys. I saw plenty of Marist fans in the stands so the money that they left at the entrance gate is helping the scholarship fund.

The Stevie’s Way Tournament finished up its fifth year of bringing in some state powers to beat each other up all in the name of making money for scholarships at Mt. Carmel in the memory of Steven Bajenski, a Caravan student who died in 2009 at age 17.

St. Rita beat Oak Park, 7-2 for the title on May 21. This tournament was so strong that Brother Rice had its 30-game winning streak snapped and finished third.

Win or lose, the money raised for Stevie’s Way and Knight’s Night are going for worthwhile causes and even though the next few weeks will be filled with postseason excitement, these two events are the perfect way to finish off the regular season.

Wood working

We will be presenting a longer story in the near future but I thought it was cool that Brad and Kyle Wood – a couple of Orland Park natives who graduated from St. Laurence – made it to their respective all-conference teams.

Kyle, a senior at Purdue, made the third All Big Ten team at first base after hitting 12 home runs and driving in 37 runs. He is the first Boilermaker honored since 2012.Eight of his homers came in March.

 Brad, a sophomore at Northern Illinois University, made the all-Mid-American Conference team at second base after hitting .289 with 37 runs and helped turn 31 double plays.