At the end of March, I wrote a column asking if St. Xavier University pitcher Nicole Nonnemacher could be the greatest pitcher in NAIA history.
At the beginning of June, I had my answer.
Before Nonnemacher, who was huge in guiding SXU to a second-place finish in the NAIA World Series last week, burst onto the scene, a case could be made for Rachel Murray being the best ever.
Murray pitched for Union University in Tennessee from 1999-2002 and is the NAIA leader in victories with 126. She racked up an NAIA best 68 shutouts and 16 no-hitters. Her career strikeout total of 1,257 ranked fourth.
Great, great numbers for the downstate Herrin native. Who knows if her win total will ever get beat?
Murray was inducted into the UU Hall of Fame in 2015.
After college, she had a tryout with the USA Olympic Softball team, was an assistant softball coach at the University of Mobile and went to India on a medical mission trip. She is married and her last name is now Buchanan and she is a physical therapist assistant in Houston.
Nonnemacher, a Bloomington native, finished her career with 103 wins, 53 shutouts and managed to pass Murray in strikeouts with 1,392 and tied her in no-hitters with 16. The strikeout total is second in NAIA history to Oklahoma City’s Lily Lavelle, who had 1,411 from 2009-2012.
Nonnemacher also has two perfect games including one against Trinity International in which she struck out all 15 batters she faced. She’s the second player in NAIA history to do that. She also struck out 42 batters in a doubleheader against a strong St. Ambrose team this year. She is the only player in NAIA history to do that.
Her best performance, in my humble opinion, came in the World Series on May 30 when when she beat top-seeded Oklahoma City University, 1-0, in the third round. Oklahoma came into the game with 542 runs in 65 games and Nonnemacher shut its hitters out and was one strike away from a no-hitter. It was the first time Oklahoma was shut out in 2016.
Even though Oklahoma came back out of the losers bracket to beat SXU 2-0 and 5-0 to win the World Series last Thursday, Nonnemacher’s body of work was still strong enough as she was named NAIA Pitcher of the Year a third consecutive time and named to the NAIA All-America team a fourth time.
Catcher Brittany Plimmer was on the NAIA second team and coach Myra Minuskin was happy for both leaders, who helped the Cougars to a 46-10-1 mark.
“Nicole is hands down the best player we have ever had in our program and ends her career as one of the most decorated players in the history of NAIA softball,” said Minuskin. “I have had so many people tell me throughout her four years at Saint Xavier that she is the most talented pitcher they have ever seen and I have to agree with them. Brittany was also a huge reason why we had such an amazing season. She is the best defensive catcher we have ever had and is also a fierce competitor. I’m so proud of both of these exceptionally talented young women.”
That pretty much seals it for me. I hereby proclaim Nonnemacher the GOAT – greatest of all time – when it comes to NAIA pitchers.
There was Nonne better.