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"No No" Naomi Monahan twirls gem for CSU softball team

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The Chico State softball team racked up 25 hits in its series-ending doubleheader Saturday with Cal State San Bernardino—but it was the Wildcats’ pitching that earned the major headlines as the No. 21 Wildcats downed the Coyotes 9-1 and 8-0 to sweep the four-game set. Haley Gilham won her fifth of the season in the opener, but that was just a teaser for the nightcap, as right-hander Naomi Monahan climbed into the circle and twirled a no-hitter in her first-ever Chico State start.

Monahan’s no-no is the first by a Wildcats pitcher since Sam Mulock held Notre Dame de Namur hitless last Match during the Tournament of Champions. It was also the first seven inning no-hitter by a Chico State hurler since Alex Molina accomplished the feat February 22, 2013 vs. San Francisco State.

The Wildcats’ offense provided Monahan and Gilham with plenty of support Saturday. Ari Marsh collected five hits on the day, with Karli Skowrup racking up four hits and four runs batted in. Megan Bowley had a home run among her four hits, while Claire Wayne had three hits including her third home run of the year. Kristin Worley also had three hits, with Cyrena Taylor and Bailey Akins contributing a pair of safeties. Taylor knocked in five runs in the first game, while Akins blasted her team-leading fourth home run in the nightcap.

In the opener of Saturday’s double dip Gilham picked up where she left off from Friday’s series opener. The right-hander retired the first 13 San Bernardino batters she faced, losing her bid for a perfect game when the Coyotes’ Briana Quintana singled with one out in the bottom of the fifth inning.

Gilham’s Wildcat teammates wasted no time in putting a crooked number on the scoreboard. In the top of the first inning, Skowrup’s RBI single plated Wendy Cardinali to give Chico State an early lead. Two batters later, with the bases loaded, Taylor delivered a three-run double to left field, then came home on a base hit by Reilani Peleti, quickly putting the ’Cats up 5-0.

The Wildcats went big fly not once, but twice in the top of the fifth. Wayne led off the inning with a home run, and later in the frame Bowley launched her first bomb of 2018 with a solo homer to left-center field, pushing Chico State’s lead to 7-0.

Gilham lost her shutout bid in the bottom of the sixth inning when the Coyotes took advantage of a Wildcats error to plate a run, but Chico State responded by scoring twice in the top of the seventh, as Taylor came through with a two-out, two-run single to knock in Cardinali and Akins.

Gilham applied the finishing touches by tossing a scoreless bottom of the seventh inning, giving the Wildcats the 9-1 victory. Gilham allowed just four hits and struck out seven on the way to improving to 5-0 on the season and posting her fourth complete game of the year.

Early on, runs were hard to come by for both teams in the nightcap. Chico State grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning when Cardinali led off with a double and scored from third on a bunt single by Marsh, but the Wildcats were held in check for the next two frames by San Bernardino starting pitcher Kendra O’Cull.

With one swing, Akins doubled the ’Cats lead in the top of the fourth inning with a home run over the center field fence. Monahan, meanwhile, was brilliant in the circle, allowing just one Coyotes baserunner (on a third inning walk) through the first five frames.

The Wildcats officially broke the game open in the top of the sixth inning—an Akins sacrifice fly plated Worley from third, and a double by Skowrup chased home Marsh. Two batters later Wayne singled through the left side, scoring Skowrup to extend Chico State’s advantage to 5-0.

After Monahan retired San Bernardino in order in the bottom of the sixth inning, the ’Cats added three insurance runs in the top of the seventh. Worley singled, stole second and scored on Marsh’s double to right field, and following an infield single by Akins, Skowrup ripped a two-run double to center to balloon Chico State’s lead to 8-0.

The spotlight then swung squarely to Monahan. The Roseville product finished with a flourish, retiring the final 13 batters she faced, including the three she needed in the bottom of the seventh—Dominique Walker on a line out to right field, Morgan Ratliff on a fly out to right, and Ashley Leffingwell on a groundout to second—to secure her no-hitter and the Wildcats’ doubleheader and series sweep of the Coyotes.

Chico State will play its first home games of the 2018 season next weekend, as the Wildcats host Cal State San Marcos at University Softball Field. The four-game set gets underway with a doubleheader Friday starting at noon, followed by a Saturday twin bill beginning at 11 a.m.

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