Northwest Conference champion Linfield is one of eight teams invited to this week’s double-elimination NCAA Division III regional playoff tournament at Central College. Action begins Thursday and runs as late as Monday in Pella, Iowa, located about an hour east of Des Moines.
In addition to Linfield (41-2), the other regional competitors include Anderson of Indiana (28-13), Fontbonne from Missouri (29-8), Washington-St. Louis (30-9-1), Coe of Iowa (34-9), Wisconsin-Whitewater (26-10), Benedictine of Illinois (37-6) and host Central (35-7).
WHAT’S AT STAKE
The regional tournament champion advances to compete in the eight-team Division III championship finals. Hosted by the Old Dominion Athletic Conference, the NCAA Finals will be held May 20-24 at the Moyer Sports Complex in Salem, Va.
THE FIRST ROUND
Linfield begins tournament play Thursday at 10 a.m. CDT against the Anderson Ravens in an opening round game. The winner of that contest plays the winner of the Fontbonne/Washington-St. Louis game Friday at 2 p.m. The loser plays an elimination game Friday at 10 a.m. against the Fontbonne/UWSL loser.
The weather in the Pella area is expected to be unsettled with occasional thunderstorms predicted for both Thursday and Friday. Any presence of lightning in the vicinity will result in temporary suspension of games, which could impact the starting times of subsequent contests.
PELLA REGIONAL SCHEDULE
(Seeding in parentheses, all times Central)
Thursday, May 12
Game 1: Linfield (1) vs. Anderson (8), 10 a.m.
Game 2: Washington-St. Louis (4) vs. Fontbonne (5), noon
Game 3: Coe (3) vs. Wisconsin-Whitewater, 2 p.m.
Game 4: Benedictine (2) vs. Central (7), 4 p.m.
Friday, May 13
Game 5: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2, 10 a.m.
Game 6: Loser Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4, noon
Game 7: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 2 p.m.
Game 8: Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4, 4 p.m.
Saturday, May 14
Game 9: Winner Game 6 vs. Loser Game 7, 10 a.m.
Game 10: Winner Game 5 vs. Loser Game 8, noon
Game 11: Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 8, 2 p.m.
Game 12: Winner Game 9 vs. Winner Game 10, 4 p.m.
Sunday, May 15
Game 13: Winner Game 12 vs. Loser Game 11, noon
Game 14: Winner Game 11 vs. Winner Game 13, 2 p.m.
Monday, May 16
Game 15: Winner Game 14 vs. Loser Game 14, 10 a.m. (if necessary)
Linfield’s regional tournament games will be broadcast via a video webcast provided by Central College. Announcing crews will vary from game to game. LiveStats will also be provided as a means to follow the action of games.
Linfield departed McMinnville Tuesday morning. After a two-hour layover in Las Vegas, the Wildcats then flew on to Omaha, Neb., before a three-hour drive through America’s Heartland to Pella. The Wildcats practiced Wednesday morning at Central College in preparation for Thursday’s first-round game.
LINFIELD (ORE.): The Wildcats (41-2) are making their eighth-straight postseason appearance and are aiming toward a fourth trip to the NCAA Finals since 2006. Led by 10th-year coach and Northwest Conference Coach of the Year Jackson Vaughan (359-82-1), the Wildcats come into the Pella Regional boasting the nation’s No. 1 ranking. Catcher Emilee Lepp and first baseman Staci Doucette represent the nation’s best power-hitting duo. Lepp’s NCAA Division III single-season record 27 home runs along with a .497 batting average give the ‘Cats a Division III Player of the Year candidate in the middle of the order. Doucette comes in hitting a team-best .549 with 18 homers and 64 RBI. Rounding out a powerful trio of hitters is shortstop Emily Keagbine, who comes into postseason play with 16 homers and 53 RBI and a .455 average. Keagbine and first team NWC outfielder Kayla Hubrich are the only two Wildcats with double-digit stolen base totals. Claire Velaski and Lauren Harvey are Linfield’s top two pitchers. Velaski, a two-time first team all-NWC selection, is 19-1 with a 2.00 ERA. Harvey, a second team all-NWC pick, is 13-0 with a 1.92 ERA. The Wildcats enter postseason play on a 30-game winning streak, while also leading the nation with 87 home runs.
CENTRAL (IOWA): After being crowned as the Iowa Conference co-champion, No. 5 Central (37-7) is making its NCAA-record 23rd postseason appearance. The Dutch are led by 27-year head coach George Wares. With a career record of 905-301-3 mark at Central, needs just one win to tie the all-time Division III coaching wins record. Senior first baseman Katie Tenboer leads a club that set school records in runs (288), home runs (25) and RBI (262). Tenboer has tallied 43 RBI and seven homers while hitting a team-best .420. Senior pitcher Kiley Lythberg comes in with a .393 batting average and 29 RBI. Second baseman Angela Davis gives the Dutch another solid bat in the order. Davis is hitting .388 with a team-high 15 doubles and 26 RBI. Stealing bases has been the recipe for success this season for Central. The Dutch have stolen 108 bases, while opponents have swiped just 12. Left fielder Bethany Koskamp leads the club with 21 steals. Lythberg is also a key pitcher for the Dutch as the senior has racked up 103 strikeouts on her way to going 17-5 with a 2.34 ERA. Freshman Brie Haycraft holds an 8-2 record with a 2.03 ERA.
FONTBONNE (MO.): The Griffins (29-8) are making their second-straight trip to the NCAA Tournament after winning the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC). In just his third season at the helm of the Fontbonne softball program, Mike Akers has accumulated a 74-43 record. Freshman Marissa Simon, the SLIAC Newcomer of the Year and first team all-SLIAC selection, is hitting .480 with a team-best 14 stolen bases. Seniors Amy Simon, Amanda Beaver and Rachel McCarthy are all first team picks. Simon leads the club with 33 RBI while Beaver has blasted five home runs. McCarthy is the ace of the staff with a team-best 12 wins on the mound. She also sports an ERA under 2.00. Sophomore Kourtney VonBehren is another pitcher to keep an eye on for the Griffins. VonBehren was named the SLIAC Tournament MVP after winning two of Fontbonne’s three games in the tournament. She was also picked as a second team all-SLIAC selection.
WASHINGTON-ST. LOUIS (MO.): Appearing in its 10th consecutive NCAA Tournament, the Bears earned an at-large bid from the University Athletic Association with a 31-10-1 record. In her sixth season, Wash. U. head coach Leticia Pineda-Boutte’ has compiled a 192-63-1 record. The Bears are powered by junior outfielder and first team all-UAA selection Alyssa Abramoski. Abramoski comes in hitting .411 with 12 doubles and 44 runs scored. Freshman outfielder Maggie Mullen gives Washington another bat in the outfielder. She led the Bears in hitting with a .427 average, while ranking up nine home runs and driving in 46 runs. Three-time first team all-UAA shortstop Corissa Santos is hitting .363 with 28 RBI and five home runs. On the mound the Bears will turn to senior pitcher Claire Voris. Voris, a four-time first team all-UAA member, comes in with a 14-4 record to go along with a 2.26 ERA. With a powerful arm Voris has struck out an outstanding 172 hitters in just over 120 innings pitched. A dual-threat, Voris is also hitting .393 with five homers and 33 RBI.
COE (IOWA): Making the 11th NCAA Tournament appearance in program history, the Kohawks are back in the big dance two years after playing in the 2009 National Championship game. In in the midst of his 14th season with Coe, Bob Timmons ranks third in NCAA Division III softball history with over 700 wins. Representing the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, the Kohawks are led by one of the nation’s best pitchers in Ashlee Simon. Simon has compiled a 25-2 record this season. In just over 171 innings she has 322 stirkouts while holding claim to a 0.86 ERA. Last week, Simon set an IIAC Tournament record with 17 strikeouts against Cornell. Maddison Woodruff provides a solid number-two starter after going 11-6 with a 2.95 ERA. Abby Flannagan is the team’s top hitter with a .486 batting average. Flannagan leads the team with 16 home runs and 54 RBI. Ashley Hood has had a stellar season with a .359 average, 52 hits and a team-high eight stolen bases.
WISCONSIN-WHITEWATER: After tying for second place in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, the Warhawks and their 26-10 record are making the program’s 15th postseason appearance. Head coach Brenda Volk is in her 13th year with the club and has amassed a 387-172-4 record. Amanda Mertes leads the Warhawks with a .411 average and 17 stolen bases. Leading Wisconsin-Whitewater with a team-best nine home runs is Emily Epifanio. Epifanio is hitting .394 with 34 RBI. Mimi Rankins gives the Warhawks another solid hitter with speed, as she comes into the postseason hitting .390 with 10 stolen bases. Pitching will be the key for the Warhawks throughout the regional. Jessica Stang gives Volk’s team a formidable ace in the circle. Stang is 19-5 on the season with a 1.53 ERA in over 150 innings of works. She has racked up 188 strikeouts in the process, while opponents are hitting just .190 off her.
BENEDICTINE (ILL.): Representing the Northern Athletics Conference, the Eagles come in to postseason after winning their conference tournament and snagging the automatic bid. Head coach Kate Keller has led the Eagles to four conference titles since taking over the program in 1998. During her time at Benedictine she has compiled a 305-190-2 record. At the heart of the Eagles’ success is their ability to change the game on the bases. Benedictine has stolen 189 bases during the year, with eight players swiping more than 10. Junior infielder Brittany Wolski comes in leading the team in hitting and stolen bases with a .436 average and 44 stolen bases. Junior pitcher and outfielder Brittany Adcox is second on the club with 33 steals, while hitting .389. Senior first baseman Cappetto is hitting .400 with a team-leading 47 RBI. The Eagles will look to play small ball throughout the regional considering they have just 10 home runs as a team on the season. In the circle for the Eagles will Adcox. Along with her hitting ability, she has tallied a 24-6 record with a 1.31 ERA. Senior Sam Corban is another option for Benedictine in the circle. she boasts a perfect 13-0 mark with a 2.47 ERA.
ANDERSON (IND.): The Ravens are making their fourth regional appearance in program history after securing a spot in the Central Regional with a win over Defiance College in the championship game of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament. An assistant at Anderson for 23 years under his father, head coach Tony Holloway is in his third season a year after guiding the Ravens to a 23-17 mark. Amy Wuestefeld comes into postseason play leading the Ravens in hitting with a .426 average. She has also stolen a team-best 13 bases. Lauren Smith and Katie Lee give Anderson another pair of players hitting over .400. Slugger Natalie Moorhouse tops the Ravens in both home runs and RBI with six long balls and 34 runs driven in. In the circle for the Ravens will be ace Monica Crowe. Crowe is 13-5 with a 1.84 ERA in 20 appearances. She has 15 of her club’s 26 complete games on the year. Lauren Smith and Devin Moorman could see time in the circle as well. Moorman has pitched 81 innings and compiled a 9-4 record.