Daily photo by Emily Saunders|
Oklahoma City catcher Erin Slettvet jumps into the arms of pitcher Dasha Shembereva as Cat Calvert, second from right, and Rachel Cope join in the celebration after the final out in the team's 7-2 win over Point Loma in the NAIA softball championships at Wilson Morgan Park on Wednesday.
OCU back on top
Shembereva finds energy
to hurl Stars to NAIA title
By Mark Edwards
email@example.com · 340-2461
When Oklahoma City coach Phil McSpadden made out his lineup for Wednesday afternoon's NAIA softball championship game, he penned in Dasha Shembereva to pitch.
It made sense — after all, Shembereva already had recorded five pitching wins in the tournament and was working on a shutout streak of 21 1/3 innings. In addition, she wanted to pitch.
But all those innings and all those wins had worn down the senior.
"I was extremely happy to get to pitch, but I was nervous because I was tired," she said.
"I was hoping and praying for energy."
Apparently, she found whatever reserve of energy she needed. Shembereva capped a tournament-MVP performance by pitching a five-hit complete game as Oklahoma City beat Point Loma Nazarene (Calif.) 7-2. The Stars didn't drop a game in the double-elimination bracket as they captured their first NAIA championship since 2002 and eighth overall.
Shembereva got all the offensive support she needed when OCU scored two runs in the top of the second and four more in the top of the third for a 6-0 lead. Point Loma touched Shembereva for a run in the bottom of the third and one more in the bottom of the fourth, but the OCU ace didn't allow another hit after that.
"It means a lot for me to get a win for Coach," Shembereva said. "He's one of the best coaches I've ever had, and at the beginning of the year, I wanted us to win it for him."
After the postgame closing ceremony, a tired Shembereva joined a tired McSpadden and a tired Oklahoma City team for a quiet, but emotional celebration of the program's return to the top of NAIA softball.
McSpadden hugged his players, and his voice broke as he tried to describe what it meant to win this championship. Although his team was ranked second in NAIA, it lost two straight games in the Region VI tournament before coming to Decatur. The Stars needed an at-large berth into the field, and McSpadden wondered whether he had a team that could compete for a title.
"This feels good," McSpadden said as he watched his players hug, laugh and take pictures of each other with their trophies.
"It feels good because they feel good. These are good kids. I don't think they're as talented as last year's club, but they have a resiliency about them."
OCU got contributions all through its batting order Wednesday. No. 3 hitter Cat Calvert singled twice and scored both times. Clean-up hitter Erin Slettvet walked twice, singled twice and drove in a run.
But No. 7 hitter Mindy Crabaugh singled, scored a run and drove in a pair, including one on a perfectly executed bunt.
No. 9 hitter Kasey Hobens singled, doubled and drove in two runs.
Point Loma advanced to the championship game with an emotional 4-2 win over Golden State Athletic Conference rival California Baptist in 12 innings. They played that game Wednesday, and 20 minutes later, Point Loma had to face Oklahoma City.
"Any time we play them, we have an emotional letdown," Point Loma coach Dave Williams said. "Even at home, if we beat them on Tuesday, I'm worried about having our team ready to play Saturday."
To beat California Baptist, Point Loma needed two runs in the top of the 12th to clinch it. Randi Mead singled home Melissa Gomez, and Allison Boeckelman singled home Jessica Hibma.
Point Loma pitcher KC Robertson gutted out the final 5 1/3 innings and limited California Baptist to one run.
"It helped us that Point Loma had to go extra innings," McSpadden said. "Against us, that's not the best Point Loma can play, and everybody knows that."
Like Oklahoma City, the Sea Lions had their own emotional moments after the finals. As the teams left the field, two Point Loma players remained. Center fielder Paige Powell, one of the team leaders, stood with teammate Laressa Newman, who gave her a hug of consolation.
"I'm proud of what the girls did," Williams said. "We have a pretty large portion of our team returning next year. We had eight new players who hadn't been here before, and they got a taste of what nationals are like."
NAIA Softball Championships
Losers’ bracket finals
Point Loma Nazarene (Calif.) 4, California Baptist 2, 12 innings
Oklahoma City 7, Point Loma Nazarene (Calif.) 2
NAIA Softball Championships
Players of the day
Dasha Shembereva pitched a five-hitter to pace Oklahoma City to a 7-2 win over Point Loma Nazarene (Calif.) in the tournament finals. She went 6-0 in the tournament and won most valuable player honors.
Oklahoma City’s Erin Slettvet went 2-for-2 with two walks and two singles in the win over Point Loma. She scored once and drove in a run.
OCU’s Kasey Hobens singled home a run and doubled home a run in the win over Point Loma.
Paige Powell went 2-for-4 with a run for Point Loma in its loss to OCU.
Point Loma Nazarene’s KC Robertson pitched 5 1/3 innings of relief, allowed only a single run and closed out the victory as the Sea Lions beat California Baptist 4-2 in 12 innings in the losers’ bracket finals.
Sea Lions left fielder Amanda Addie went 2-for-4 with an RBI against Oklahoma City. In the win over California Baptist, she made two straight homer-denying catches in the sixth inning. On the first one, she caught the ball as she fell over the fence, getting a hug afterward from center fielder Paige Powell before she climbed back over.
- Mark Edwards
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