PBA Softball Goes the Distance as Sailfish Capture NCCAA Championship Crown

Written By: Michael Brown, Palm Beach Atlantic University SID

The Palm Beach Atlantic Softball Team Gathers Post-Game After Winning the Program's First-Ever NCCAA National Championship. The Palm Beach Atlantic Softball Team Gathers Post-Game After Winning the Program's First-Ever NCCAA National Championship.

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PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla.- Entering the 2009 season, the Palm Beach Atlantic University softball team had a number of team goals. One of those was to end the year as the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) National Champions. Shutting out their opponent in three games, the Sailfish ended their season on Saturday evening when they defeated Spring Arbor University by a 6-0 score to earn the program’s first-ever NCCAA National Championship.

After scoring only three runs combined in their first two games of the tournament with shutout victories over Indiana Wesleyan University (2-0) and Central Baptist College (1-0), the Sailfish bats finally came alive on Saturday as they plated three runs in the first inning on their way to a comfortable 6-0 win over Spring Arbor University.

SAU had defeated Central Baptist College earlier in the day to earn a spot in the championship final but would need to beat PBA twice in order to claim hold to the NCCAA Championship. After the first inning, it would be clear that the Sailfish would be in control of this one with their three spot in their first at-bat.

Leadoff hitter Candace Horton got things started with a walk and then advanced all the way to third-base on a single from Chelsea Gravini with one out.  Next stepped in sophomore shortstop Caitlin Bouschet who delivered an RBI single to score the game’s first run. Mari Stokes followed by reaching on a fielder’s choice and came home along with Bouschet on a wild pitch and throwing error by the SAU catcher.

PBA would put their championship hopes in the hands of junior pitcher Heather Laird. Laird responded with a strong six inning outing while allowing four hits, four walks, and struck out eight batters.

With the 3-0 cushion, the Sailfish knew they would need more runs than that if they hoped to put the Cougars away for good. Three more runs came home to score in the third inning to give PBA their final 6-0 lead.

Horton once again got the rally started by reaching on an error to start the third frame. After being moved to second-base on a sacrifice bunt from Dani Perrotti, Horton would move to third-base on a sharp single from Gravini. Bouschet followed with a walk and a pitching change occurred for SAU as head coach Deb Thompson decided to go to Chelsea Brancheau who then promptly walked in a run by awarding Stokes a base-on-balls.

Erica Walters would follow with a fielder’s choice RBI and then a RBI single from senior Becca Bolinger that brought home the game’s final run.

While the Cougars would threaten a number of times throughout the game they would never be able to push across a run, the same fate each PBA opponent experienced in the tournament.

After her strong six inning outing, Laird received a rousing ovation as she was lifted to give fellow junior Ashley Jones the opportunity to close out the contest with a scoreless seventh inning.

Gravini finished 3-for-4 on the evening to lead PBA’s six-hit attack off of SAU pitchers Danielle Beckett and Brancheau.

Katrinia Neufeld collected two of the Cougars’ five total hits.

PBA finishes the season with an impressive 33-22 final record.

An award ceremony including the presentation of the championship banner followed the contest with head coach Kimmy Bloemers accepting the NCCAA Coach of the Year award while Jones was named NCCAA Pitcher of the Year.

Caitlin Bouschet, Mari Stokes, and Jones were all named NCCAA All-Americans while Laird earned Honorable Mention status. Jones, Laird, Bouschet, Bolinger, and Horton all earned recognition on the All-Tournament Team.

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