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Hard-hitting Benedictine gains at-large bid to D-III regionals

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Updated: June 18, 2013 7:40AM

In a 32-10 regular season, Benedictine tied a school record for victories and won No. 900 for 41st-year coach John Ostrowski. What the Eagles couldn’t do was nail down an automatic bid to the NCAA ­Division III tournament. Concordia Chicago won the Northern ­Athletics Conference tournament to take that honor.

But Benedictine was one of 14 schools selected for an at-large berth for the tournament, which started with double-elimination regionals Wednesday at eight sites. The Eagles opened Wednesday afternoon in Whitewater, Wis., with a 6-5 10-inning loss to Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

“It’s very exciting,” Ostrowski said. “That’s the goal for any season, to make it to the dance, whether you’re ­Division I, Division II, or Division III, no matter what sport. Getting to the NCAA tournament is what it’s all about. We’ve got a group of seniors, with about 10 who have really ­contributed. These guys ­really had that focus to get to the NCAA tournament.”

Area conferences were ­competitive at the top all season, and the NAC and CCIW both were rewarded with double bids. In the CCIW, tournament champion ­Augustana is hosting a regional in Rock Island, while regular-season winner Illinois Wesleyan was assigned Terre Haute, Ind. NAC tourney champ Concordia also is at Rock Island, with ­Benedictine at Whitewater.

“It’s funny because a lot of people generalize Division III as not that good a baseball,” Ostrowski said. “There’s a wide range of ability in Division III, and certainly the top teams in Division III are very close to being good scholarship-school teams. It is very good baseball.”

Benedictine has been strong at the bat, led by conference position player of the year Tim Hendricks (.426, four homers, 29 RBI, 54 runs). Entering the NCAA tournament, the Eagles ranked second in the nation in batting average and third in runs.

“This is probably one of the best hitting teams we’ve had,” Ostrowski said. “Tim Hendricks, sophomore center fielder, has hit over .400 at the top, and I think our best hitter is our No. 2 hitter, our senior shortstop, Nick Karakosta [.412, two homers, 50 RBI, 51 runs].

‘‘Those guys are two brutally good Division III hitters. Our 3-4-5 hitters are pretty good, and the bottom of the order can cause trouble, too. From 1 to 9, the pitcher doesn’t have any time off. He has to focus and make good pitches.”

Pushed to limit

Ranked 10th in the nation and seeded first at Concordia (Ore.), St. Xavier (48-7) was forced into an elimination game Wednesday afternoon before romping 10-2 over Corban to win its opening bracket and advance in the NAIA softball tournament.

Corban, of Salem, Ore., had forced the extra game by ­winning 10-7 earlier in the day.

Until that game, St. Xavier pitcher Megan Nonnemacher had dominated the double-elimination bracket. Nonnemacher, a junior right-hander, tossed a one-hitter as the Cougars routed Mid-American Nazarene 12-1 on Monday, then a two-hitter in a 2-0 shutout of Corban on Tuesday.

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