Competing in the Pella (Iowa) Regional, the Linfield College Wildcats won all four of their NCAA Division III regional playoff games to advance to the NCAA Finals for the fourth time in six seasons. Linfield is one of eight teams to advance to this week’s NCAA Division III Finals in Salem, Va. The Wildcats (45-2) are seeking their second national title in five years. In 2010, Linfield reached the championship game of the NCAA Finals before falling 4-3 in the seventh inning to East Texas Baptist.
The Old Dominion Athletic Conference is serving as host for the tournament, which begins Friday and runs as late as Tuesday, May 24. In addition to Linfield, the other championship participants include SUNY-Cortland (40-3-1), Luther of Iowa (41-4), Texas-Tyler (38-11), Messiah of Pennsylvania (39-5), DePauw of Indiana (31-9-1), Eastern Connecticut State (34-5), and Christopher Newport from Virginia (35-10).
WHAT’S AT STAKE
The Division III national champion receives a walnut and bronze trophy, awarded to every NCAA national champion, regardless of division. Every participating player receives a special medallion.
Linfield plays SUNY-Cortland at 8 a.m. Pacific time Friday. The other first-round matchups include Luther taking on Texas-Tyler at 10:30 a.m., Messiah battling DePauw at 1 p.m., and Eastern Connecticut meeting Christopher Newport at 3:30.
NCAA FINALS SCHEDULE
(All times Pacific)
Friday, May 20
Game 1: Linfield vs. SUNY-Cortland, 8 a.m.
Game 2: Luther vs. Texas-Tyler, 10:30 a.m.
Game 3: Messiah vs. DePauw, 1 p.m.
Game 4: Eastern Connecticut vs. Christopher Newport, 3:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 21
Game 5: Loser of Game 1 vs. Loser of Game 2, 8 a.m. (loser eliminated)
Game 6: Loser of Game 3 vs. Loser of Game 4, 10:30 a.m. (loser eliminated)
Game 7: Winner of Game 1 vs. Winner of Game 2, 1 p.m.
Game 8: Winner of Game 3 vs. Winner of Game 4, 3:30 p.m.
Sunday, May 22
Game 9: Winner of Game 6 vs. Loser of Game 7, elimination game, 9 a.m.
Game 10: Winner of Game 5 vs. Loser of Game 8, elimination game, 11:30 a.m.
Game 11: Winner of Game 7 vs. Winner of Game 8, 2 p.m.
Game 12: Winner of Game 9 vs. Winner of Game 10, elimination game, 4:30 p.m.
Monday, May 23
Game 13: Loser of Game 11 vs. Game 12 winner, elimination game, 9 a.m.
Game 14: Winner of Game 11 vs. Winner of Game 13; 11:30 a.m. (Championship)
Tuesday, May 24
Game 15: Winner of Game 14 vs. Loser of Game 14; 9 a.m. (if necessary)
Linfield traveled to Salem, Va., directly from its regional site in Pella, Iowa. The Wildcats held an informal practice at the Salem Civic Center fields on Wednesday. All teams practice Thursday at the Moyer Sports Complex in Salem. Other activities all teams participate in Thursday include an outdoor barbeque, community service activities, and a formal team banquet in the evening. Linfield could return to Oregon as early as Sunday or as late as Tuesday evening, depending on the outcome of the tournament.
The Wildcats have not faced any of the teams at this year’s tournament this season.
Linfield has held the No. 1 ranking all season in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association poll. The NFCA also rates Luther at No. 4, SUNY-Cortland is No. 8, Eastern Connecticut is ranked ninth, Messiah 11th, Texas-Tyler 14th, DePauw is No. 16. Christopher Newport is unranked.
All tournament games will streamed on the internet through a live video webcast provided by the NCAA and Turner Sports. Access the video broadcasts at www.ncaa.com/liveschedule.
Tournament officials are providing Game Tracker (a variation of Live Stats )for each tournament game through the NCAA's interactive bracket.
ABOUT LINFIELD (McMinnville, Ore.)
Linfield (45-2) is making its eighth straight postseason appearance and fourth trip to the Finals. The Wildcats broke their own NCAA Division III record this season with 95 home runs and rank second nationally in batting average (.400). Linfield’s 45 wins equal the most in program history, tying the 2007 national championship club that finished 45-7. The Wildcats enter the NCAA Finals riding a school-record 34-game winning streak. Linfield is captured its fourth regional championship in six seasons after going 4-0 at the Pella Regional in Pella, Iowa. Linfield outscored its regional opponents 49-0. In the regional tournament, Jaydee Baxter hit .600, Staci Doucette and Emilee Lepp each hit .500 with two home runs, and Karleigh Prestianni homered twice while hitting .500. Pitcher Claire Velaski was a one-woman wrecking crew, pitching four consecutive shutout victories, including a no-hitter against Washington-St. Louis. Seven of Linfield’s nine starting players are hitting over .300 for the season, including Doucette (.498), Prestianni (.450) and Lepp (.414). The Wildcats, who have it a NCAA-record 95 home runs this spring, are coached by Jackson Vaughan who is 362-85-1 in 10 seasons.
ABOUT LUTHER (Decorah, Iowa)
Winning the Eau Claire Regional with a 4-3 victory over St. Thomas, the Norse are making their fifth appearance in the NCAA Finals and enter the tournament riding a 25-game winning streak. Luther features an outstanding 1-2 punch in the pitching circle, where Lexy Determan and Becca Girvan have combined for 41 victories and a 1.28 ERA. Determan (25-2) has amassed 223 strikeouts and 12 shutouts among her 26 complete games. Girvan (16-2) follows with 126 Ks, seven shutouts and 15 complete performances. Offensively, four regulars hit over .400, led by Kelsey Weindruch (.431, 16 doubles, eight home runs, 42 RBIs) and Shari Huber (.415, nine doubles, 19 RBI, seven stolen bases). Kelsey Kittleson (4.10, 41 RBIs) and Lauran Snyder (.348, 14 doubles, eight home runs, 41 RBIs) also provide potency to the lineup. As a team, the Norse are hitting .361. Luther is coached by Renae Hartl. In her 10th season, Hartl has rolled up a career record of 289-125, including five straight 30-win seasons.
ABOUT DEPAUW (Greencastle, Ind.)
The Tigers are making their second straight NCAA Finals appearance and third in five years. Averaging 9.5 runs per game, DePauw went 4-1 on its way to claiming the Adrian Regional title. Pitcher Emily Bichler pitched three shutouts at the regional tournament. Bichler has pitched in 40 o of DePauw’s 41 games, compiling a 29-9 record with nine shutouts, 118 strikeouts and a 3.20 ERA. The Tigers’ most productive hitters include Rachel MacBeth, Emma Minx and Haley Buchanan. Macbeth leads the team with a .442 average while adding 12 doubles and eight stolen bases. Minx has the top slugging percentage at .732, which includes 15 doubles, two triples and nine home runs. Buchanan is the leading home run hitter with 13. Brianne Weeks is the leading threat on the basepaths, with 12 stolen bases in 13 attempts. DePauw is coached by Bonnie Skrenta, who in nine seasons has compiled a 250-113-2 record.
ABOUT MESSIAH (Grantham, Pa.)
Messiah earned the Ithaca Regional by knocking out Keuka College 6-1 in the championship game, capturing the program’s fourth regional crown overall and second in three seasons. Coach Amy Weaver is 339-197-1 in 13 seasons, including 4-0 at last week’s regional tournament. The Falcons are led by all-everything player Jessica Rhoads. As Messiah’s designated player, Rhoads leads the team with a .406 average, nine doubles and 19 RBIs. Perhaps more /sports/data_assets/logosantly than her offense, Rhoads is 15-1 as a pitcher with a 0.16 ERA, six shutouts and 139 strikeouts. Jocelyn Hickey (13-2, 1.36 ERA, 81 strikeouts) and Sara Dietrich (11-1, 1.92 ERA, three saves, 62 strikeouts) round out a balanced pitching staff. Providing additional firepower in the batting lineup are Ashley Lehman (.395, five doubles, three triples, five stolen bases and Krista Ammon (.365, six doubles, nine triples, two home runs, 12 stolen bases).
ABOUT CHRISTOPHER NEWPORT (Newport News, Va.)
Making its fourth straight postseason appearance and second consecutive run to the Finals, Christopher Newport completed an unbeaten run through the Salisbury Regional with a 19-3 rout of host Salisbury. The Captains outscored their regional opponents 41-15. Leading the offense is Jessie Atkinson, a .433 hitter who paces the team with 15 home runs. Kristina McLaughlin has eight doubles, three homers and With its 11th-straight conference title and win in the regional, Moravian is making five stolen bases to go with her .346 average. The pitching staff, featuring three capable starters, has a 1.96 ERA. Krista Townsend has 1.08 ERA with a 9-2 record and 70 strikeouts. Whitney Haller boasts a team-best 119 strikeouts to go along with her 18-4 record and 1.99 ERA. The Captains are coached by Keith Part, who has compiled a 263-91-1 record in eight seasons at CNU.
ABOUT SUNY-CORTLAND (Cortland, N.Y.)
SUNY-Cortland is making its fifth straight NCAA Finals appearance and 17th overall. The Red Dragons enter the tournament as one the nation’s hottest teams, prevailing in 28 straight games. Coached by one of the winningest coaches in Division III, Cortland advanced to the NCAA Finals after winning their own regional tournament. Coach Julie Lenhart (679-288-2, 559-211-1 at Cortland) is one of 11 coaches in Division III history with more than 600 career wins. Pitcher Lyndsay Rowell went 4-0 in the regional tournament, earning all-tournament honors. Rowell (24-2) pitched 23 of the Red Dragons’ total innings played at the regional. For the season, the workhorse righthander has posted a 0.65 ERA with 19 complete games, seven shutouts and 121 strikeouts. As a team, Cortland is hitting .354, led by all-star infielders Donnalyn Cross and Lucia Meola. Cross is hitting .437 with 121 total bases, including nine home runs and 19 stolen bases. Meola hits .411 with 12 doubles and nine stolen bases. Abby Martin leads the team in runs batted in with 34. She carries a .368 average with 11 doubles and eight home runs.
ABOUT EASTERN CONNECTICUT STATE (Willimantic, Conn.)
Eastern Connecticut battled its way through the losers bracket as an at-large team to capture the Providence Regional. The Warriors, who at one point made 11-straight appearances through 1992, punched their ticket with a 1-0 victory over the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. The Warriors have one of the nation’s hottest pitchers. Molly Rathbun has thrown four straight shutouts and has a 0.61 ERA as an impressive 27-1 record. Rathbun is 8-1 in nine postseason games this spring, posting a 1.02 ERA with 83 strikeouts and only nine walks. For the season, the three-time all-region pitcher has compiled glossy statistics that include a 23-1 record, 0.72 ERA and 253 strikeouts. She also bats a team-leading .423 with eight homers and 37 RBI. Other lineup mainstays include Priscilla Alicea (.373, 15 RBIs, 13 stolen bases), Megan Goodwin (.370, eight doubles, 22 RBIs), and Arielee Cooper (.320, seven doubles, seven home runs). Collectively, the Warriors hit .314 and have a team ERA of 1.66.
ABOUT TEXAS-TYLER (Tyler, Texas)
After beating rival Louisiana College 8-7 in the championship game of the Tyler Regional, the Patriots qualified for the NCAA Finals for the second time in three years. Coach Mike Reed, 346-101 overall, has guided the team since the program’s inception in 2005. Pitching ace Stacy Shepherd won three games at the Tyler Regional, improving her season record to 17-4. Shepherd has 58 strikeouts and a 2.67 ERA. Katelyn Thomason has also been a reliable pitching option. Thomason is 13-7 with a 2.82 ERA in 27 appearances. The UTT lineup features standouts Brittani Hanna (.428, 16 doubles, 29 RBIs), Lauren Robenalt (.397, 14 stolen bases) and Joey Cronin (.394, 12 doubles, eight homers). Brittney Batten, the American Southwest Conference’s Newcomer of the Year, is hitting .405 with 11 home runs. Whitney Wyly tops the team with 13 home runs.