DAYTON, Ohio—The 2014 Horizon League Softball Championship is in the books as the No. 1 seeded Green Bay Phoenix defeated No. 3 Valparaiso 9-0 on Saturday afternoon at the WSU Softball Field. The Phoenix scored in the bottom of the first inning and didn’t look back as the team continued their hot-hitting of the tournament. Green Bay receives an automatic qualifying bid to the NCAA Division I Softball Championship beginning May 16.
The Championship Runner-Up Crusaders end their season with a 24-34 overall record.
The Phoenix got on the board in the bottom of the first inning with a single from Miranda Reinke who advanced to second by a bunt single from teammate Marissa Michalkiewicz. With runners in scoring position, Shannon Butts hit a hard ground ball down the first base line for a RBI single.
Each team would go scoreless in the second inning before the Phoenix bats broke out to take a hefty lead in the bottom of the third. Reinke began the frame getting hit by a pitch from Sierra Pico, followed by a Marissa Michalkiewicz walk. Advancing on a sacrifice bunt from Shannon Butts, the bases then got loaded as Pico walked Abby Brinkmeier. Kaitlyn Huemmer was up to bat next and hit a ball in the air behind second base that was dropped for an error. The dropped fly scored Reinke and another run crossed the plate on a ground out by Miranda Spangberg.
With the score at 3-0, Stacey Butts hit a triple to right field to bring in two more runs for the Phoenix. Pico was then relieved by Mollie Lindeman in the circle but gave up a single through the left side of the infield to Kelli Hutchinson that put another runner across the plate for Green Bay. Lindeman then settled in to get the last out of the inning two batters later as Valparaiso entered the top of the fourth inning down 6-0.
Ashley Nannemann remained untouchable in the circle for Green Bay routinely getting quick outs for the defense. The senior right-handed pitcher allowed only two Crusader hits through the first three innings.
The bottom of the fourth inning sealed the victory for the Phoenix as they put three more runs across the plate to bring the contest to 9-0. Shannon Butts got the bats rolling with a single to center field as Abby Brinkmeier followed with a shot to left center for a RBI double. Huemmer then singled to score Brinkmeier and Lindeman’s day was over in the circle for Valparaiso as Taylor Weissenhofer came in for relief.
Facing Weissenhofer, Stacey Butts got on base off of a Crusader throwing error that scored Huemmer for Green Bay’s ninth run of the ballgame.
Valparaiso was unable come back in the bottom of the fifth inning as the game ended in five due to the run-rule (eight runs after five innings).
Nannemann was named the tournament MVP after dominating opponents in the circle all three games she started. In the Championship final, she only allowed two hits and struck out three while only facing 18 batters the entire game.
Green Bay will find out its opponent in the NCAA Softball Championship May 11 at 10:00 p.m. during the NCAA Selection Show airing on ESPNU. The 2014 title and automatic qualifying bid marks the second for the Phoenix program with the last happening in 2005.
2014 Horizon League Softball All-Tournament Team:
Natalie Hernandez, UIC
Samantha Snodgrass, Youngstown State
Jess Gorman, Wright State
Bridget Boyle, UIC
Kelli Hutchinson, Green Bay
Tarah McShane, Valparaiso
Ashley Nannemann, Green Bay
Shannon Butts, Green Bay
Janelle Bouchard, Valparaiso
Abby Brinkmeier, Green Bay
Marissa Michalkiewicz, Green Bay
Kaitlyn Ranieri, Valparaiso
Defensive Player Award: Courtney Heeley, UIC
Batting Champion Award: Natalie Hernandez, UIC
Pitching Award: Ashley Nannemann, Green Bay
Tournament MVP: Ashley Nannemann, Green Bay