RIVER FOREST, Ill. – Marian University softball (25-11, 17-5 NACC) earned the program’s first NACC title sweeping Concordia Chicago with final scores of 2-1 and 12-7.
The Sabres would leave 10 runners on base in the opening game but couldn’t find the clutch hit in a pitching duel. The Cougars would scratch across a run in the fourth inning in what looked like it may be the only run of the game.
The Sabres would finally get on the scoreboard in the seventh inning in dramatic fashion. A one-out single from sophomore Gianna Esposito opened the inning and was immediately followed by a two-run homer from freshman Peyton Loesch, her second of the season, to put Marian ahead 2-1. The Cougars were then set down in order in the bottom of the seventh to secure the comeback victory.
Sophomore Paige Rauhut (15-4) was dominant in the circle going the distance to earn the victory only allowing four hits. Offensively, three Sabres had multi-hit games led by Esposito who finished 3-for-4 with one run scored.
The Cougars once again took an early lead in game two leading 5-2 after four innings but the Sabre offense poured it on late to secure the sweep and conference title. Freshman Katy Croeker hit her fifth home run of the year in the second inning before a sacrifice fly from junior Rachel Soch in the fourth inning plated sophomore Taylor Lauscher to open the scoring.
Marian then exploded for six runs in the fifth inning to take their first lead of the game. Esposito opened the scoring with a double that plated sophomore Ally Fox before a single from Loesch brought in junior Lindsey Strainis. Croeker then hit a sacrifice fly before freshman Alexa Rodriguez cleared the bases with a three-run homer.
Rodriguez was at it again the sixth inning when she hit her second three-run homer of the game, fifth of the year, to put the Sabres ahead 11-5. Croeker would drive in junior Olivia Hartley in the seventh to provide the Sabres insurance and close out the Marian scoring. The Cougars would get a two-out two-RBI single in the bottom of the seventh to close the gap but the Sabres held off the rally.
Freshman Myranda Schuttenhelm only allowed three hits over 2.1 innings of work to earn the victory, while Rauhut tied a single-season record with her third save tossing the final 3.0 innings only allowing three hits.
All nine starters in the lineup recorded a hit for Marian led by a monster game from Rodriguez who finished 4-4 with two runs scored and six driven in.
Marian opens the NACC Tournament Thursday, May 3 from Alverno in Milwaukee. The Sabres will await the results of the opening games to determine their opponent.