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Nitz Eighth-Inning Home Run Keeps ESU Alive

Channon Nitz’s one-out home run kept Emporia State’s national title hopes alive as the Lady Hornets rallied from a two-run deficit to take a 4-3 win in eight innings over Central Oklahoma Saturday afternoon at the NCAA Division II Softball Championship in Salem, Va. 

With one out in the eighth, Nitz found a pitch up in the zone against Akin, and she blasted it well beyond the left field fence. 

“The other two hits I got earlier were outside pitches,” Nitz said. “I knew she was going to try and work me inside. My teammates told me she was leaving some pitches up, so I focused on keeping my hands and turning on an inside pitch.” 

The Lady Hornets (60-6) jumped on top in the first as all-American Megan Davison laced a two-out single that scored Chelsea McClernon, who led off with a single and finished 3-for-3 on the day with an RBI, a run scored, and two walks. 

“I felt good at the plate,” McClernon said. “I was seeing the ball well and focused on just hitting it up the middle. I focused on getting on top of the ball.” 

The lead didn’t last long, as Alley Roberts delivered a pitch over the wall in right center for her second home run of the season. Karmen Kauk followed with a double, and she scored to give the Bronchos a 3-1 lead four batters later as Lindsay Mitchell reached on an error by Lady Hornet first baseman Jennifer Dace. 

Despite leaving 11 runners on base in the contest, ESU managed to rally and tie the game in the sixth. Morgan Viola was hit by a pitch, and with one out, Nitz doubled to score Viola after she moved to third on a groundout by Dace. After the second out was recorded, Laura Pfautsch was walked to bring up McClernon. The Wichita State transfer made the most of the opportunity, delivering her third hit of the day to score pinch-runner Shelbe Hughes with the tying run. 

“We did a good job of fighting back today,” ESU head coach Kristi Bredbenner said. “We got ahead the first inning and they came back. We did a good job making quality at-bats. We did a good job keeping them off-balance, and Channon came up with a big hit.” 

Melissa Stevens (28-3), who picked up the win, shut down the UCO bats the rest of the way to set up Nitz’s heroics in the eighth. Stevens hurled six innings in two different stints, giving up a run on four hits with four strikeouts. Courtney Reed pitched the fourth and fifth innings, being struck for two runs, one earned, on two hits. 

Jordan Akin was tagged with the loss as she gave up a run on three hits in two innings. Alli Blake hurled six innings and failed to pick up a decision as she gave up three runs, all earned, on six hits. 

Emporia State advances to face the winner of Saturday afternoon’s elimination game between Cal State Bakersfield and Georgia College & State. Central Oklahoma concludes the 2006 campaign at 31-17 overall.