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Nicole Nonnemacher, St. Xavier softball have high expectations for 2015

BY JOHN GROCHOWSKI

Local colleges’ transition from winter sports to spring sports has just begun, but St. Xavier softball coach Myra Minuskin has a pretty good idea of how good her team can be. The Cougars, ranked No. 4 in NAIA, got a head start on the season with a March 6-14 stay in Clermont, Florida, and are off to a 19-2-1 start.

“Our expectations are high,” Minuskin said. “I like our confidence. I like our composure. More tangibly, I like our pitching, which is not a surprise. Our defense, I’d like to see that become a little bit tighter. There’s so much you can’t control. Defense you can control. We like to take charge of that.”

One reason for the high hopes is the return of junior pitcher Nicole Nonnemacher, last season’s NAIA pitcher of the year. Nonnemacher already has won CCAC pitcher of the week honors twice this season, including last week when she went 3-0 and had at least 14 strikeouts in each of her starts.

“Nicole Nonnemacher is obviously something special, a fierce competitor,” Minuskin said. “She worked very hard in the offseason to become even better. She’s always willing to learn, even though she was the pitcher of the year last year. Sometimes she gets so frustrated with herself we have to tell her relax and let it happen. But she’s an amazing talent and a fierce competitor.”

The Cougars hope to improve on offense, and two keys are senior left fielder Katy Sears, a transfer from Evansville, and sophomore Savannah Kinsella, who has moved to second base after playing shortstop as a freshman.

“Katy Sears is batting .500 right now, and a lot of that is based on her speed,” Minuskin said. “She plays a great, great left field. Just really a spark for our offense.

“We saw it coming last year with Savannah Kinsella. We moved her back to second, which is a little more in her comfort zone, and she’s doing a phenomenal job. Last year she hit a lot of balls hard, but not a lot to show for it. This year it’s coming together for her and she’s batting cleanup for us.”

Flyers fall

Fourth-ranked Lewis came up just short in a 61-58 loss to No. 2 Limestone in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Division II women’s basketball tournament Tuesday in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

The Flyers (31-3) had three chances at a tying three-pointer in the closing seconds, but senior guard Alexus Grayer missed twice and junior guard Jamie Johnson missed once.

Grayer led Lewis with 14 points and Kristin Itschner scored 13. Junior forward Mariyah Brawner-Henley and senior forward Jess Reinhart each played only 23 minutes because of foul trouble. Brawner-Henley, who averaged 17.6 points and 12.1 rebounds, managed 12 rebounds but was held to 12 points.

Lewis set a school records for wins.