The Lady Lynx of Lindenwood University-Belleville are the USCAA national champions in softball after defeating Ave Maria University 6-0 in the title game Wednesday in Akron, Ohio.
After defeating the No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3 seeds on the first two days of the tournament, the sixth-seeded Lady Lynx (24-21) beat seventh-seeded Ave Maria, located in Ypsilanti, Mich., capturing the first USCAA championship in a women's sport for Lindenwood-Belleville.
The men's soccer and men's golf teams won USCAA championships in 2011.
"Our kids are looking forward to getting what the golf team and the soccer team got,'' Lady Lynx coach Charlie Kennedy said. "They're looking forward to getting a national championship ring.''
Kennedy said the Lady Lynx were motivated by last year's disappointing performance in the national tournament. They won their first game, but then suffered three consecutive one-run losses.
"If that doesn't drive you to want to get back and prove yourself ... our kids were ready to go,'' Kennedy said.
Lady Lynx pitcher Stephanie Holiday was chosen as the tournament MVP, after posing four wins, including three straight shutouts.
Holiday (16-11) posted her third straight shutout and extended her scoreless streak to 21 innings against Ave Maria. The senior scattered five hits and struck out four.
Holiday finished the tournament with a 1.08 ERA over 26 innings.
"Steph struggled many times during the year, but in my 15 years of college coaching, I don't know if I have had another warrior who was so unselfish or had broader shoulders and could carry us the way she carried us,'' Kennedy said.
Kennedy said his pitching staff was short-handed all season after having two pitchers leave the team over the summer and then two more leave the team in the spring.
"We were putting position players who hadn't pitched since their high school days out there and having them throw some innings for us so we could get through the schedule,'' Kennedy said. "Steph Holiday was our winning ticket. We just needed get to nationals and not overuse her before we got there.''
Joining Holiday on the all-tournament team were outfielder Marquis Lozoya and first baseman Meghan Rumley.
"Marquis Lozoya went 10-for-15 in the World Series,'' Kennedy said. "She batted .667. She had a tremendous series for us in the No. 2 spot in the order. Megan Rumley was our designated hitter for all four games.
"She hit a two-run bomb in the championship game that just took the breath out of Ave Maria.''
In the first inning of the championship game, Lindenwood-Belleville leadoff hitter Mackenzie Foiles was hit by a pitch, reaching base to start the game for the fourth consecutive game.
After a popup by Lozoya, Rumley was hit by a pitch, moving Foiles over to second.
Samantha Pacecho singled, moving Foiles to third and Rumley to second. Holiday hit a sacrifice fly to left, scoring Foiles to take a 1-0 lead.
In the top of the second the Lady Lynx added three more runs. Sierra Redmon reached base on an error. Samantha Hutchinson got down a sacrifice bunt, moving Redmon to second.
After Redmon moved up to third on a wild pitch, Lozoya singled up the middle to score Redmon. Rumley then hit a two-run home run to left field.
In the fifth, Holiday picked up her second hit of the game with one out. A sacrifice by Marisa Cinquepalmi moved Holiday to second. Pinch-hitter Samantha Kleekamp hit the first pitch she saw off the left field fence, scoring Holiday for a 5-0 lead.
The Lady Lynx got an insurance run in the sixth on an RBI single by Rumley, scoring Foiles after her one-out walk.
Rumley, Lozoya, and Holiday picked up two hits apiece. Rumley had three RBIs and Holiday had one.
Kennedy said his team's abundant depth was a major factor at the national tournament.
"It intimidated teams up there,'' Kennedy said. "If you look at box scores, we used 15-18 kids every game. It gave me a lot more things to work with. There were teams there with 12-13 kids.
"They had one shot, and I had six shots that I could use. It was really good.''
The Lady Lynx finished the season on a season-high eight-game winning streak.