Evangel softball wins NACA national championship

Published 3:49 pm Monday, May 15, 2023

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

EAST RIDGE, Tenn. – The Evangel Christian Lightning beat the the Providence Athletic Club Panthers twice on Friday, May 12 to claim the NACA Division II softball national championship.

Both games ended early by the run rule, as the Lightning pitched a combined no-hitter in game one, winning 11-0 in five innings, and took game two, 11-1, in five innings.

After going undefeated in pool play on Wednesday and Thursday, outscoring their opponents 31-2 across the three wins, the Lightning faced the Panthers in a placement game to determine who would move on to the championship game.

The scoring started in the bottom of the first inning with Lauren Smith’s two-run inside-the-park home run.

Emily Johnson scored on a passed ball just before the final out of the inning to take the lead to 3-0.

In the second inning, Ivie Littleton hit an RBI-single and came home on a wild pitch, and then Emily Johnson hit a two-run RBI-triple to increase the Lightning’s lead to 7-0.

Littleton added another RBI-single in the bottom of the third as the lead hit 8-0.

The next inning, Baylee Knight took advantage of having two runners on base with an RBI single, and then Sammie Myers hit another RBI single on the next play.

While the 10-0 lead was good enough to enter run rule territory, the Lightning tacked on an 11th run thanks to an error by the Panthers center fielder that scored Myers.

Myers came in to pitch in the fifth for Smith, who pitched four no-hit innings with eight strikeouts, and Myers finished the job by retiring three straight batters to secure the combined no-hitter.

After the Panthers battled their way out of an elimination game, they earned a rematch against the Lightning for the national championship.

In the title game, Evangel went hitless in the first inning, but back-to-back singles in the second put two runners on with one out. That allowed Johnson to score on a Knight sacrifice fly.

The Lightning took a 1-0 lead into the third, when Lilli Whitfield took advantage of two opening baserunners to score a two-RBI-single.

Johnson kept the scoring going with a two-out RBI-triple to increase the lead to 4-0.

The Panthers scored their only run of the series in the top of the fourth off a walk with runners on second and third and two outs.

Evangel exploded in the bottom of the fifth to trigger the run rule. First, Whitfield scored from second on a Rileigh Johnstone RBI-single, and then Johnson hit an RBI single to get to a 6-1 lead.

With one out and runners on the corners, Knight scored two with a single to left field and took the Lightning up 8-1.

After an error and a strikeout, Littleton cleared the bases with a two-run RBI-single to go up 10-1, and then two pitches later, she scored from third on a wild pitch to walk off and win the national title, 11-1, in five innings.