Skinner shines as Yotes advance at NAIA Championships

IRVINE, Calif. - Nickayla Skinner tossed a five-hit shutout and added a solo home run as The College of Idaho moved into the title game of the NAIA Softball National Championships Irvine Bracket with a 4-0 victory over St. Gregory's University.

The Lady Yotes (36-22), who lost a morning semifinal game, 1-0, to No. 1 ranked Concordia-Irvine, will get another crack at the Eagles (47-3), tomorrow at 1 p.m. The C of I will need to win a pair of games against the tournament hosts to advance to the National Championships final site in Columbus, Ga.

In today's first game, CUI senior Katie Cotta tossed her tenth no-hitter of the season, an NAIA single-season record, striking out 15 Coyote batters. It marked the first time since April of 2004 that the Yotes had been held without a hit.

Skinner matched the Eagles' fireballer through five innings, working out of a second-and-third, one-out jam in the fifth. However, a two-out solo home run by Emily Craig provided the lone run of the contest. The Cascade Conference Pitcher of the Year allowed just five hits against the top-ranked team in the NAIA, striking out nine without a walk.

"Cotta threw a great game today," said C of I head coach Al Mendiola. "We didn't make the necessary adjustments offensively. Skinner matched her pitch-for-pitch, however one pitch was the difference in the contest."

WIth their season on the line, the Yotes rebounded against the Cavaliers (35-16) - eliminated the Oklahoma side from the tournament. After loading the bases in the first but not scoring, The C of I broke through in the second, as Julia Henrie singled and moved to second on an error. Skinner hit a grounder that was misplayed, allowing Henrie to score, giving the Yotes a 1-0 lead

Skinner dominated the Cavs for the second-straight day, not allowing a runner in scoring position after the second inning. She helped her own cause with a home run in the seventh, with Alexis Macias following with a two-run shot of her own, to make it 4-0.

"That seventh inning was huge," said Mendiola. "We battled at the plate and got insurance runs. I know Nickayla has to be getting tired - but she's not showing it. We said we'd have to beat (CUI pitcher Kate) Cotta twice to advance, why not do it in one day."

Molly Mills went 3-for-4 and Macias had two hits in the win, with Skinner striking out five to earn her 25th win of the year.