May 17, 2009
Story courtesy of Cleveland State Athletic Communications
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -Christa Coppus was thrown out at home after trying to score the game-tying run from second base on a infield single as Cleveland State dropped a heart-breaking 5-4 decision to Miami, OH to be eliminated from the Ann Arbor Regional of the 2009 NCAA Softball Championship.
The loss ends the Vikings' season with a 37-18 record while Miami (OH) improves o 33-23. The RedHawks advance to meet Notre Dame on Saturday evening with a regional title game appearance vs. Michigan on the line.
"I can't say a bad thing about my team today because despite everything that was thrown at them during the game, they battled for the victory until the final out," CSU head coach Angie Nicholson said. "I don't think we were beaten today, we just ran out of outs.
"We had one defensive lapse today and it cost us dearly, but when you consider the number of people we had moving around from position to position today, our defense really played pretty well."
Trailing 5-3 going into the top of the seventh, the Vikings loaded the bases with one out on a double by Andrea Nagy, a bloop single by Christa Coppus and a walk to Danielle Young. After Amanda Houchin struck out for the second out, Lia Gordon hit a line drive up the middle that Miami shortstop Sarah Billstrom was able to catch and keep in the infield, but her toss to second was too late to get Young coming in from first. Nagy scored on the play and Coppus kept going after reaching third, but was thrown out on a close play at the plate to end the game.
"They needed a perfect throw to get Christa but unfortunately, they got it," Nicholson said.
The loss ends the season for the Vikings after posting the third-highest single season win total in school history along with a school-record fourth consecutive 30-win season.
"What can I say about my seniors," Nicholson said of the six-member class that included Coppus, Houchin, Natalie DeMatteis, Haley Keller, Shalyn Adams and Young. "These kids are trail-blazers. They were able to come into this program four years ago and start a stretch of sustained winning that had never occurred in this program before that ended with us playing in the NCAA Championship for the second time ever.
"This is a special group. Four of them would have graduated today in Cleveland had they not been playing and they represent this program well. We will definitely miss them next year, but what they have helped to do is open the door to getting even better players who can take this program further. They have set the bar for what we expect out of this program and it is up to the players who follow to maintain and improve the program."
The Vikings jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second.
DeMatteis opened the frame by walking and was promptly moved to second on a sacrifice by Shalyn Adams. Mimi Mahon drove DeMatteis home on a seeing-eye single up the middle that RedHawk shortstop Sarah Billstrom missed fielding by inches. After a Haley Keller sacrifice moved Mahon to second, Andrea Nagy doubled off the fence in right to score Mahon.
The RedHawks had opportunities in each of the first two innings, leaving five runners on base.
In the first, Meghan Mawn and Billstrom had back-to-back singles with one out, but Amanda Macenko struck out the next two batters to end the frame.
In the second, Kat Russette and Kelly Cabana singled with one out, but Alexis Javier flew out to left for the second out. After Jordan McElroy walked to load the bases, Mawn grounded into a fielder's choice to end the inning.
Miami broke onto the scoreboard in the third when Lauren Odom had an RBI single and Russette followed with a ground ball out that scored a second run to even the game at 2-2.
Both runs scored after DeMatteis left the game with severe cramps in her leg. The injury forced Nicholson to shuffle her defense, moving Christa Coppus to short, Amanda Houchin to second, Mimi Mahon to third and inserting Katelyn Ciminelli into the lineup at first base.
The move paid off as Ciminelli led off the top of the fourth with a double off the wall in center. Adams followed with an infield single but Ciminelli was unable to advance. Nicholson went to her bench, pinch-running Alicia Nichols for Ciminelli, but Nichols was promptly cut down at third on fielder's choice by Mahon.
After Haley Keller struck out, Nagy hit a grounder to short that Billstrom misplayed, allowing all runners to reach safely with Adams scoring from second on the play to give CSU a 3-2 lead.
With Ciminelli out of the lineup the defense shuffled again as Nichols took over in left field, Nagy moved to second base, Houchin returned to third base and Mahon resumed playing at first base.
Consecutive singles by Alicia Hogl, Odom and Russette to open the fifth tied the score at 3-3.
The defense then made its lone error of the game and it cost the Vikings. Javier hit a sharp grounder to second that Nagy fielded cleanly and turned a fired a strike to second ahead of Russette, but Coppus couldn't handle the toss and it deflected off her glove and into centerfield. Odom came around to score to give Miami a 4-3 lead and Russette took third on the play. A suicide squeeze on the ensuing play by McElroy allowed Russette to score, making it a 5-3 Miami lead.
Macenko (28-14) went the distance for the Vikings, allowing five runs (three earned) on 12 hits, striking out eight and walking two.
"Amanda wasn't as sharp today as she normally is, but part of that was because the plate umpire was calling a very tight strike zone," Nicholson said. "That meant that she had to throw the ball over the plate, which created opportunities for the RedHawk hitters."
Jessica Simpson (24-12) went the distance for Miami, allowing four runs (three earned) on eight hits. She struck out seven and walked two.
"I am disappointed with the way this season ended, but I am happy with the season in general," Nicholson said. "This team overcame so much adversity because of injuries but they still battled their way to a league title. For that, they will always be remembered."