SIOUX CITY – Oklahoma City rode the hot right arm of freshman hurler Georgia Wall to a NAIA Softball World Series title.
Wall tossed a pair of shutouts Thursday as the top-ranked Stars defeated fourth-seeded Saint Xavier twice, 2-0 and 5-0, to secure the ninth national title in program history.
Oklahoma City (67-3) won its first national title since 2007 and became just the fourth in the NAIA’s 36-year history to win both contests on championship night.
“I have been blessed with so many talented athletes, but this team is special,” said Oklahoma City coach Phil McSpadden. “It’s not about coaching, it’s recruiting. We had team speed, we had power, I thought we were pretty solid offensively.
“We replaced our whole outfield and pitching, we had most of the tools.”
Wall allowed one hit while striking out three in the Stars' win in the first game Thursday, a victory that set up an ultimate winner-take-all title contest. Wall, who had never started two games on the same day this season until Wednesday, pitched her fourth game in a little over 24 hours with a four-hitter while striking out one in the championship game.
“Years ago I would go to a tournament and I would (use the whole pitching staff),” said McSpadden. “Last time we won it we just went with the hottest pitcher. I felt like I had to go with the hot pitcher.”
Oklahoma City scored two unearned runs in the first game before becoming the first team to score an earned run on Saint Xavier pitcher Nicole Nonnemacher, the two-time NAIA pitcher of the year, when Madison Ellis connected on a two-run homer in the second inning of game two.
Leslie Miller, a senior, added a long three-run home run in the seventh for Oklahoma City, picking up her first RBI of the World Series after pacing NAIA’s top offensive club with 75 during the regular season.
It was all the run support needed for Wall, named the World Series MVP, after going 6-1 and allowing just four earned runs in 46 innings while yielding 20 hits with 16 walks and 21 strikeouts.
“Championship game, we play with all our hearts and we leave it all on the field and I couldn’t have done that without all my teammates,” said Ellis. “Look at Leslie’s shot, that’s the last at-bat of her career, over the left-field fence are you kidding?”
Ellis, a remarkable 11-for-20 in the tournament, had seven extra-base hits and drove in nine runs in seven World Series contests.
“She was just on fire,” said McSpadden of Ellis. “You’re not going to win a tournament without someone picking up the slack.”
Oklahoma City won five straight elimination round contests after falling to Saint Xavier on Monday. The Stars defeated Williams Baptist (7-1) on Tuesday before posting elimination victories over two-time defending national champion Auburn Montgomery (4-3) and sixth-seeded Southeastern (8-1) on Wednesday.
Saint Xavier (46-10-1), playing in its first national title game, scored just five runs in five World Series games, riding the strong arm of Nonnemacher, who should become a rare four-time first-team All-American when team’s are released on Friday.
Nonnemacher closed out her collegiate career going 3-2 in the World Series, throwing 35 innings, allowing five earned runs on 19 hits with five walks and 45 strikeouts.
Oklahoma City was making its 29th appearance at the World Series, first since 2014, with an all-time mark 120-45 at the Series returns to the top of the NAIA for the first time since 2007.
“I couldn’t be prouder of my team,” said Ellis. “I jumped in her (Wall’s) arms just because she was coming to me too. Just because we have each other's back and I think we deserve this more than anybody.”