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‘Old school’ approach works for St. Xavier softball

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Updated: May 14, 2014 5:49PM

With a pair of ace pitchers and an airtight defense, St. Xavier has locked down ­opposing offenses this softball ­season. That’s just the way the ­Cougars planned it.

“We’re really old-school in that we rely on pitching and defense,” said Myra Minuskin, in her 14th season coaching the Cougars (30-4, 14-2 CCAC). “We stress defense from
Day 1 of practice. I tell the players [a batter] can’t control the outcome of an at-bat. You can hit a screaming line drive and someone can make a diving catch. But defense is something we have control over all the time.”

Locked in a tight conference race with No. 7 Olivet Nazarene (36-2, 16-0), St. Xavier, ranked 11th in the NAIA, has shut out 21 opponents. Through Wednesday, 11 of those shutouts had come with sophomore Nicole Nonnemacher (12-2, 0.28 ERA) on the mound, and eight had been by her sister, Megan (14-1, 0.88).

“They’re different types of pitchers,” Minuskin said. “Megan has had an amazing career. She’s been our conference pitcher of the year the last two years. She relies a lot on movement. She is a true pitcher and knows what she’s doing on the mound. She’s not overpowering, but she’s hard to square up. She moves, changes speeds and can hit corners.

“Nicole is overpowering. She’s a hard thrower, and she has become much better. Her changeup is much better as a sophomore, but she can just strike people out. They’re both incredibly talented, they work incredibly hard at their craft and they’re very, very competitive.”

On defense, Minuskin said her team is solid all around but gave special mention to center fielder Shannon Lauret, first baseman Amanda Hainlen (“a great target with phenomenal hands”) and her all-freshman left side of the infield, Savannah Kinsella at short and Franchesca Graffeo at third.

As for second baseman Kasey Kanaga, Minuskin said, “She has just been unbelievable. She’s about as good a second baseman as we’ve ever had in this program. She just does it all.”

The Cougars are a week away from an April 24 showdown at Olivet Nazarene.

“It’s going to be interesting,” Minuskin said. “They’re one of the best offensive teams, if not the best ­offensive team in the NAIA, and we are one of the top pitching and defensive teams in the NAIA. So we’ll see.

“We’re going to have to hit, and generate a little more offense than we usually do. It’ll be fun. This is what it’s all about.”

Butler ties record

Jake Butler, a senior at St. Francis of Joliet, tied the school record for career wins when he threw a 13-inning two-hitter to beat Robert Morris 3-1 on Tuesday in the first game of a doubleheader sweep.

It was the 30th career victory for Butler (7-1, 2.01), the CCAC pitcher of the week for the week ending April 13.

The Saints (26-15, 14-3 CCAC) beat Robert Morris 3-0 in the ­nightcap behind junior Adam ­Panayotovich.

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