With a 2-0 victory over Moravian College, coach John Tschida’s softball team celebrated its first national championship and St. Thomas’ 11th national team championship.
The 10 national championship team banners in St. Thomas’ Schoenecker Arena will have a new neighbor – make room for No. 11 with Tommie softball.
Sophomore Janet Nagle pitched a one-hit shutout to lead St. Thomas to its first NCAA Division III softball championship with Monday night’s 2-0 victory over Moravian (Pa.). The shutout victory capped a 4-0 week in Salem and a 10-0 postseason run since April 30.
Sophomore Nikki Conway and junior Michelle Wong had clutch, two-out, RBI singles in the fifth inning to let the Tommies (46-4) cap a storybook season. St. Thomas won its 41st consecutive game – a Division III record and second-longest win streak in any NCAA softball division.
In their 7-0 sweep through regionals and nationals, the Tommies never trailed and allowed just 10 runs.
"It was just a great team effort, tonight and all season," said Tommie head coach John Tschida. "A lot of players stepped up, just like they have all year. We have six seniors who didn’t all get to make the on-field contributions but they made a huge impact with their work ethic and attitudes.
"It’s a long week here, and there were a lot of weather delays, but we really focused on the task. It’s the World Series. It’s a great opportunity to show what you have."
The Tommies’ first national softball title was also the school’s 11th overall national team championship. The Tommies join a select group of institutions to win NCAA titles in six different sports. UST men’s and women’s cross country, women’s basketball, men’s indoor track and baseball had previously won gold.
Tschida, now 9-2 at nationals in three College World Series trips, joins a select group of coaches to win NCAA team championships at different schools. He guided St. Mary’s to the 2000 title before leaving to take the St. Thomas job in 2001.
Nagle, who shutout Moravian on a three-hitter Sunday night, struck out four Monday and benefited from diving catches by centerfielder Kristi Huegel in the third inning and Mandy Bowlby in the fourth inning.
"We’re known as more of a hitting team," Nagle said, "but as you saw out there tonight we had some amazing step-ups by players with diving catches and people making big plays."
St. Thomas got just five hits off losing pitcher Meagan Hennessy, but strung together three in the fifth inning. Kathleen Fitzpatrick reached on a one-out bunt single and stole second. After a pop out, Conway’s RBI single to left made it 1-0. Wong’s two-out single just inside the bag at first base scored Conway for a 2-0 lead.
"Everyone on our team, one through nine, can hit the ball," Conway said. "It was only a matter of time before we broke through tonight."
After Huegel made a diving catch in center field for the second out of the third inning, Moravian’s Krissy Cianfichi doubled to left field for the only hit. Nagle got a pop out to end the threat, and allowed just one baserunner thereafter, on a one-out walk to Cianfichi in the sixth.
Moravian (40-6) had stayed alive with a 1-0 win over Salisbury earlier Monday in a game delayed nearly four hours by lightning and rain.
Nagle, Conway, Martinson and freshman Carrie Embree made the all-tournament team.
Game 13–Moravian (Pa.) 1, Salibury (Md.) 0 (Salisbury eliminated)
Game 14–St. Thomas 2, Moravian 0
Moravian College…. 000 000 0 – 0 1 2
U. of St. Thomas ….. 000 020 X – 2 5 0
Hennessy and Carrione; Nagle and Conway. WP-Nagle (33-2). LP-Hennessy (23-3). Highlights: Janet Nagle 7IP, 0R, 1H, 1W, 4K… Nikki Conway and Michelle Wong get back-to-back two-out RBI singles in fifth inning.