IRVINE, Calif.- The No. 11 softball team from Irvine Concordia University played its first game at the NCAA West Regional on Thursday, ending up having to play for the second time in one day. CUI was ranked the No. 1 seed in the West Regional, earning a bye for the first day of the tournament. Their first game was at 12 p.m. Thursday against the No. 5 seed from the University of Hawaii at Hilo. The Eagles faced the Vulcans twice recently in the Automatic Qualifier Pod Series and beat them both times by one run. However, this time the Vulcans were able to exact revenge. CUI regrouped after a narrow loss to survive in the double elimination format, after redeeming themselves in a big way against Northwest Nazarene in the late game.
Game one: CUI 3, UHH 4
All-American Callie Nunes started the Eagles' first game of the day and pitched a pair of scoreless innings from the bat. She was relieved by Kelsea Sweeney in the third inning, who ended up throwing the remainder of the game for Green and Gold.
The Vulcans took a 3-0 lead in the third, but the Eagles came back in the bottom of the quarter, tying the game 3-3. A couple of singles by McKinsey Thorpe and Sydney Sprinkle started the entry. Both Thorpe and Sprinkle were picked up by Missy Nemeth who dropped a bomb over the center field fence. Nemeth's game-tying home run was his eighth home run of the season.
The game was locked at 3-3 for the next three innings and ended up going to extrass. CUI had a chance to score in the bottom of the seventh, but the UHH defense made an outstanding double play that ended up shutting down the Eagles' momentum.
UHH was able to cross a run in the eighth and then held on through the tough 4-3 win.
The loss to the Vulcans snapped the Eagles' nine-game winning streak and forced them to play a second game of day against Northwest Nazarene.
"Obviously, the first game was really tough," Sprinkle said. "Even though we lost, he was very proud of us because we responded. Once we have the momentum, we can recover from a deficit. It's not something we should worry about. They just beat us, it was nothing." We could really do more about it, but we didn't let that affect us when we entered (set two NNU verses) ".
Set two: CUI 9, NNU 0
The Green and Gold entered the game two hot, scoring at least one run in each inning. They dominated the Nighthawks in four innings, scoring nine runs on the board.
"It seemed like a really good answer for us today." said head coach and athletic director Crystal Rosenthal "It's a bit tough to lose the first game the way we did, so I was proud of our team. I had a lot of good quality at-bats, disinterested at-bats to score a few runs. "
Sweeney continued to pitch extremely well on the mound, making three great innings of work. She was efficient, yielding just three. Later, Erika Morris was put in to close the game for the Eagles, and she gave up just one hit. Sweeney improved to 10-4 on the season with the win and her ERA dropped to 1.74.
"We're asking our pitchers to keep us in the game," Rosenthal continued. "We were in the game in the first game for three and our offense responded. Kelsea made a really good pitch to give up the last run of the first game. Kelsea has been a great addition to our team because she has a really good pace. I thought Erika came in and did really great things today. "
CUI was patient in the box, scoring her first four consecutive walks. Then the Eagles offense took care of the rest. Sprinkle had a pair of singles. Nemeth hit a sacrifice fly to score Megan Massa . Marisa Stockton was big on her at-bats today, going 3 of 3. In the first inning at Stockton's bat, singled to left field, and then, in his second time at the plate, he hit a single down the middle that scored two runs.In his third appearance, he had an epic solo home run that ended the score of the Eagles at 9-0.
"I think once our team takes that momentum, even with a walk or any kind of hit, we definitely take advantage of it every time," Stockton said. "I'm very happy with to be able to help this team, that we can get those wins and I feel like I'm finally getting a good look at the ball, so I think of a little adjustment and we're ready to go all the way. "
CUI plays again on Friday at 2:30 pm. v. Central Washington.
To see the updated schedule for the CUI softball team, CLICK HERE.