Oklahoma City University defeated Point Loma Nazarene (Calif.) 7-2 to win the NAIA softball national championship.
The second-ranked Stars (53-6) defeated third-ranked Point Loma Nazarene for the second day in a row for the title. Point Loma survived a 12-inning, 4-2 victory over top-ranked California Baptist earlier Wednesday to set-up the rematch with OCU.
Oklahoma City won its eighth softball championship. It also claimed titles in 1994-97 and 2000-02.
“This national championship is a long time coming,” OCU shortstop Rachel Cope said. “They haven’t won one at OCU since 2002. There was a lot of pressure on us to do it. Everybody came together at the end. This means so much to everyone.”
OCU coach Phil McSpadden put together this team with seven new recruits, including NAIA player of the year Melody Murphy.
“We had a good recruiting class, but we had too many new faces to say that we had a championship ballclub,” McSpadden said. “In time, the team showed they had the tools.
"The kids have made it enjoyable to get to this point. I've questioned all kinds of things since we won it last. Am I coaching badly? Am I recruiting badly? Are people outworking us? What's happened the past four years? To get back to where you're capable of, it's a bit more comfortable.”
OCU pitcher Dasha Shembereva became the NAIA Championships most valuable player. The right-hander from Moscow struck out five and allowed five hits in a complete-game effort to get the win.
Shembereva (31-3) worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth inning as she forced Point Loma’s Allie Boeckelman into a groundout.
“It means a lot to me to get this win for Coach (McSpadden) because he’s a great person and one of the best coaches I’ve played for,” Shembereva said. “I’ve wanted to win it for him and this team. I’m glad we came through and finished great.”
Shembereva went 6-0 with a 0.35 earned run average and three shutouts at the tournament.
“I think she’s one of the best pitchers I’ve ever seen,” OCU third baseman Cat Calvert said. “I love the fact she’s on my team. We’ve been through so much together. She pitched a great game and a great tournament.”
Mindy Crabaugh put the Stars ahead with a two-out base hit to left field to score Amanda Howard in the second inning. Kasey Hobens brought in another run with a hit.
OCU busted the game open with four third-inning runs. Calvert rounded the bases when Point Loma first baseman Jessica Hibma fielded Brittani Ellis’ bunt and threw the ball away without a teammate covering the bag.
Howard drove in another run on a sacrifice fly, then Crabaugh laid out a squeeze bunt to bring in Ellis. Hobens doubled in another run to make it 6-0.
Calvert went 2-for-4 with two runs scored, while Crabaugh and Hobens drove in two runs each. Ellis, Howard and Murphy each made all-tournament.
The Stars put aside doubts that may have arisen from being shut out twice in the NAIA Region VI Tournament. Those losses were the only ones OCU had after a 27-game winning streak and before an eight-game unbeaten string through the tournament.
“They’ve shown ability to fight through adversity,” McSpadden said. “They’ve bounced back and shown they can play from behind, they can play through bad times, errors, bad pitches, bad at-bats.”
OCU won its 31st national title in all sports. OCU has won a championship every year since 1994.