BLOOMINGTON REGIONAL PLAYOFF PREVIEW
Northwest Conference champion Linfield is one of eight teams invited to this week’s double-elimination NCAA Division III regional playoff tournament at Illinois Wesleyan University. Action begins Thursday and runs as late as Monday at Bloomington, Ill., located about 2½ hours southwest of Chicago.
In addition to Linfield (38-5), the other regional competitors include Anderson of Indiana (30-10), Benedictine of Illinois (33-9), Carthage of Wisconsin (34-8), Fontbonne from Missouri (27-10), St. Norbert of Wisconsin (17-18), Wisconsin-Eau Claire (32-12), and host Illinois Wesleyan (36-6).
Bloomington Regional Tournament Website
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 are slated for May 18-22 at the Moyer Sports Complex in Salem, Va.
THE FIRST ROUND
Linfield begins tournament play Thursday at 2 p.m. PDT against the Benedictine Eagles in an opening-round game. The winner of that contest plays the winner of the Carthage/Anderson game Friday at 2 p.m. Pacific time. The loser plays an elimination game Friday at 10 a.m. against the Carthage/Anderson loser.
The weather forecast calls for dry conditions, mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the low 70s most days.
BLOOMINGTON REGIONAL SCHEDULE
(Seeding in parentheses, all times Pacific)
Thursday, May 10
Game 1: Illinois Wesleyan (1) vs. St. Norbert (8), 8 a.m.
Game 2: UW-Eau Claire (4) vs. Fontbonne (5), 10 a.m.
Game 3: Carthage (3) vs. Anderson (6), noon
Game 4: Linfield (2) vs. Benedictine (7), 2 p.m.
Friday, May 11
Game 5: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2, 8 a.m.
Game 6: Loser Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4, 10 a.m.
Game 7: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, noon
Game 8: Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4, 2 p.m.
Saturday, May 12
Game 9: Winner Game 6 vs. Loser Game 7, 8 a.m.
Game 10: Winner Game 5 vs. Loser Game 8, 10 a.m.
Game 11: Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 8, noon
Game 12: Winner Game 9 vs. Winner Game 10, 2 p.m.
Sunday, May 13
Game 13: Winner Game 12 vs. Loser Game 11, 10 a.m.
Game 14: Winner Game 11 vs. Winner Game 13, noon
Monday, May 14
Game 15: Winner Game 14 vs. Loser Game 14, 8 a.m. (if necessary)
Illinois Wesleyan will be providing audio and video webcasts of each of Linfield’s regional tournament games. Live statistics will also be available.
Linfield departed McMinnville Tuesday morning. After a 3½-hour flight to Chicago, the Wildcats then bussed another 2½ hours to Bloomington. Linfield practices Wednesday morning at Illinois Wesleyan in preparation for Thursday’s first-round game.
LINFIELD (ORE.): The defending NCAA champion Wildcats ended regular-season play with a stellar record of 38-5, earning the program’s ninth straight Northwest Conference title. Linfield, however, was runner-up in the NWC postseason tournament, earning an at-large berth to the NCAA playoffs. The Wildcats rode the arms of aces Karina Paavola (Sr., Kelso, Wash.) and Lauren Harvey, who combined for 36 of Linfield’s 38 wins. The dynamic duo also recorded 223 strikeouts and was backed by the sound bats of NWC Player of the Year Staci Doucette and fellow first-team selection Karleigh Prestianni, Both Wildcats hit well over .400. Doucette’s 17 home runs led Division III statistics and the senior All-American added a team-best 58 RBI. Prestianni hit .424 with 39 RBI and eight home runs. First-team all-NWC catcher Emilee Lepp was another major cog in the Wildcats’ offensive machine, hitting 12 home runs and 52 RBI. Wildcats skipper Jackson Vaughan (402-91-1) surpassed 400 wins this spring and has Linfield seeking its third NCAA title in 11th years as coach. The third-ranked Wildcats opened the season with a 12-game winning streak, before losing back-to-back games for the first time since 2010. The ‘Cats responded with a vengeance, winning another 21 straight, their most consecutive wins since producing a school-record 35 straight victories during last year’s national championship season.
BENEDICTINE (ILL.): Representing the Northern Athletics Conference, the Eagles (33-9) 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. Keller sports a 338-199-2 record and became Benedictine’s all-time wins leader this spring. At the heart of the Eagles’ success is their ability to change the game on the bases. Benedictine has stolen 117 bases during the year, with four players swiping more than 10. Senior infielder Brittany Wolski comes in leading the team in hitting and stolen bases with a .486 average and 33 stolen bases. Senior pitcher/outfielder Brittany Adcox is second on the club with 21 steals, while hitting .371. Adding to Benedictine’s offensive production is Kelly Mieszala, who is hitting .444 with 13 doubles and 31 RBI, and Laura Christensen, who bats .403 with 14 RBI and 14 stolen bases. 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 is Adcox. Along with her hitting ability, she has tallied a 24-3 record with a 1.49 ERA.
ILLINOIS WESLEYAN (ILL.): Molly McCready earned co-Pitcher of the Year honors in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin, leading the Titans with 16 victories, 183 strikeouts and a 1.00 ERA. The sophomore standout was joined by eight other Titans on the all-conference team. Their combined effort helped pace Illinois Wesleyan to a 36-6 overall record. Head coach Steve King boasts an impressive record of 157-54 after five years at the helm of the program. The eighth-ranked Titans are making their 11th appearance in the NCAA tournament, and look to improve their overall tournament record of 19-20. Illinois Wesleyan rides the bats of Audra James, who led the team with a .495 batting average and 45 hits, and Emma Clark, who posted a team-high 10 home runs while driving in 33. Alyssa Vorel was a double-digit winner for the Titans, posting a record of 12-2 with 81 strikeouts and a dazzling 1.37 ERA.
CARTHAGE (WISC.): The Lady Reds captured a co-championship in the CCIW, sweeping the conference pitchers, players, and coaching staff of the year awards in the process. Co-pitcher of the year Krystina Leazer will carry Carthage throughout the tournament, as her 25 victories and dazzling 2.06 ERA reflect why she is considered one of the premier pitchers in the nation. Offensively, the Lady Reds benefit from a plethora of .300 hitters, led by freshman shortstop Katie Morman, who hit .356. Morman and Leazer were joined on the CCIW first team by conference player of the year Alyssa Schrader, who led the team with 13 home runs and 40 RBI, and Vicki Pyan, who contributed eight homers and 28 RBI. CCIW co-coach of the year Amy Gillmore improved her 15-year overall record to 344-216 with a sparkling 34-8 record this season. A former shortstop for the Lady Reds, Gillmore leads her squad to its third NCAA tournament appearance, looking to improve on last year’s 1-2 performance in the regional playoffs.
UW-EAU CLAIRE (WISC.): Head coach Leslie Huntington has all the tools for success in her back pocket after guiding the Blugolds to an NCAA Division III championship in 2008. In her 11th season as coach, she currently stands atop the UW-Eau Claire all-time softball wins list with a 315-161 mark. Possessing a roster featuring eight freshmen, the Blugolds posted an impressive 32-12 record on the season, going 14-2 in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. UW-Eau Claire captured the conference crown for the first time since winning three consecutive championships between 2004-06. Veteran senior catcher Nikki Bromelkamp and freshman rising star outfielder Amanda Fischer are the main offensive catalysts for the Blugolds, hitting .395 and .398, respectively. Fischer shared the team lead in home runs at eight with junior first baseman Sarah Fern, while Bromelkamp paced UW-Eau Claire with 42 RBI. From the circle, senior Ashley Meinen and sophomore Emma Wishau combined for 26 victories, teaming up to strike out 149 opposing hitters. UW-Eau Claire, ranked 20th in the nation, seeks to return to the peak it reached four years ago. The Blugolds must overcome back-to-back defeats to end the regular season, which snapped a 16-game winning streak.
FONTBONNE (MO.): Head coach Bill Rosner led Fontbonne to its third St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship in four seasons as the Griffins posted a 13-1 conference record and a 27-10 overall mark. Rosner sports a 74-45 win-loss record and looks to improve his numbers with a progressive playoff push. The Griffins’ make their sixth overall and third straight appearance in the NCAA regional playoffs. Offensively, the Griffins are led by sisters Danielle and Cassandra Glixman, a pair of freshman standouts who hit .487 and .400, respectively. The two combined for 104 hits and drove in 73 runs. Sarah Cerutti paced the Griffins with 10 home runs and drove in 38 runs, second only to Danielle Glixman’s team-high 43. Kourtney VonBehren and reigning first team all-SLIAC selection Rachel McCarthy split the pitching duties for the Griffins, and each posting ERAs below 3.00.
ANDERSON (IND.): Posting a perfect 16-0 mark in Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference play and a 30-10 overall record, the Anderson Ravens displayed their dominance throughout the season. Leading Anderson to wins in 15 of the final 16 contests, head coach Tony Holloway capped off his fifth season by carrying Anderson into its fifth NCAA Division III regional playoff appearance. A pair of young outfielders - sophomore Katie Lee (.479) and freshman Samantha Steele (.450) – are the Ravens’ offensive leaders. The rising stars provided plenty of run support for standout pitcher Monica Crowe, who posted an incredible 18-2 record with 120 strikeouts and a 1.99 ERA. Nine home runs and 43 RBI from junior middle infielder Natalie Moorhouse and seven home runs a piece from Yardley Collett and Megan Ream provided all the power Anderson needed to belt its way into the postseason.
ST. NORBERT (WISC.): Despite finishing the season with a sub-.500 record (17-18), the Green Knights of St. Norbert captured a bid to the regional tournament by going 3-1 at the Midwest Conference postseason tournament. Junior standout and reigning Midwest Conference Player of the Year Steph Brunette leads the team in batting with a .439 average and shares has a team-best nine stolent bases in 11 attempts. Two-year letterwinner Morgan Buboltz provides the thump in the Green Knights’ lineup, blasting four home runs and driving in 28, both team-high numbers. Veteran coach JoAnn Krueger piloted a relatively young team in her 15th season, despite St. Norbert not having any seniors on its roster in 2012. Overall, Krueger boasts a record of 273-233-1 is aiming to return her team to the neighborhood of the 2010 team, which finished third in the regional playoffs. Junior Shannen Schmidt and freshman Morgan Rusch carried the Green Knights from the circle. The two combined to throw all but two innings the entire season, together piling up 122 strikeouts and 24 complete games.
One of five focused seniors
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