LINFIELD SEEKS THIRD NATIONAL TITLE
Competing in the Bloomington (Ill.) Regional, the Linfield Wildcats won all four of their NCAA Division III regional playoff games to advance to the NCAA Finals for the fifth time since 2006. Linfield is one of eight teams included in this week’s Finals in Salem, Va. The Wildcats (42-5) are seeking their third national title in six years. Linfield reached the national-championship game each of the past two seasons, winning the 2011 crown in Salem last spring. Linfield won its first national softball championship in 2007. The Wildcats are aiming to become the first repeat champion since 2005 and only the third program in Division III history to claim back-to-back titles.
The Old Dominion Athletic Conference is serving as host for the tournament, which begins Friday and runs as late as Tuesday, May 22. In addition to Linfield, the other championship participants include Ohio Northern, Tufts (Mass.), Plattsburgh State (N.Y.), Montclair State (N.J.), Roanoke (Va.), Luther (Iowa), Pacific Lutheran (Wash).
WHAT’S AT STAKE
The Division III national champion receives a walnut and bronze trophy, awarded to every NCAA national champion, regardless of division. Each participating player receives a special medallion.
Linfield plays Ohio Northern at 8 a.m. Pacific time Friday. The other first-round matchups include Pacific Lutheran taking on Luther at 10:30 a.m., Plattsburgh State versus Montclair State at 1 p.m., and Tufts meeting Roanoke at 3:30.
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE
(All times Pacific)
Friday, May 18
Game 1: Linfield (42-5) vs. Ohio Northern (31-12), 8 a.m.
Game 2: Pacific Lutheran (41-11) vs. Luther (40-7), 10:30 a.m.
Game 3: Plattsburgh State (35-9) vs. Montclair State (42-7), 1 p.m.
Game 4: Roanoke (33-9) vs. Tufts (36-9), 3:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 19
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 20
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 21
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 22
Game 15: Winner of Game 14 vs. Loser of Game 14; 8 a.m. (if necessary)
TRAVEL AND ACTIVITIES
Linfield traveled to Salem, Va., directly from its regional site in Bloomington, Ill. on Monday. In addition to some welcome down time to catch up on studies, the Wildcats conducted informal practices Tuesday and Wednesday on the Roanoke College lacrosse field. On Thursday, all eight teams practiced and enjoyed a group barbeque at the Moyer Sports Complex in Salem, then participated in a community service project. The pre-tournament banquet was Thursday night. Depending on the outcome of the tournament, Linfield could return to Oregon as early as Sunday or as late as Tuesday evening,
Among this year’s competing teams, the Wildcats have undoubtedly waged their fiercest battles with Northwest Conference foe Pacific Lutheran, which emerged as the champion of not only the NWC tournament, but of the six-team Tyler, Texas, regional. In seven meetings this season, PLU has prevailed four times over Linfield.
Defending national champion Linfield held the No. 1 ranking for the better part of the 2012 season in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association poll. The Wildcats enter the eight-team Finals ranked No. 3 nationally. Also ranked among the nation’s Top 25 teams are fourth-ranked Pacific Lutheran, No. 6 Luther, No. 8 Tufts, 15th-ranked Montclair State, No. 23 Plattsburgh State, and 25th-rated Ohio Northern.
All NCAA tournament games will feature a live video stream provided by the NCAA. Access the video broadcasts through the Interactive Bracket.
Tournament officials are providing Live Stats for each tournament game, also available through the Interactive Bracket.
LINFIELD (McMinnville, Ore.): After a dramatic 6-2 victory in the championship game of the Bloomington Regional Tournament, Linfield advances to the NCAA Division III Finals for the third consecutive season. All-Americans Staci Doucette and Emilee Lepp ensured the Wildcats would have a chance to defend last season’s national title, each hitting a home run in the regional title game. The Wildcats rode the arms of all-stars Karina Paavola (Jr., Kelso, Wash.) and Lauren Harvey, who combined for 40 of Linfield’s 42 wins. The dynamic duo also shared 253 strikeouts and was backed by the potent bats of three-time Northwest Conference Player of the Year Doucette and fellow first-team selection Karleigh Prestianni (Sr., Grants Pass, Ore.), who each hit over .400. Doucette’s led the nation with 18 home runs while batting a team-leading .488, followed closely by first-team all-NWC and all-West Region catcher Lepp, who posted 14 home runs and 60 RBI. Head coach Jackson Vaughan (11th year, 406-91-1) has the Wildcats in position to claim the program’s third NCAA crown in six seasons. Linfield, ranked No. 1 for much of the season, opened with a 12-game winning streak, before losing back-to-back games for the first time since 2010. The ‘Cats responded by winning 21 straight contests, their most consecutive victories since winning a school-record 35 straight during last year’s 51-3 campaign.
PLATTSBURGH STATE (Plattsburgh, N.Y.): With a 6-1 victory over Keene State, the Cardinals won the Amherst Regional and advanced to the Division III Finals. In just her second year as head coach, Stephanie Zweig (67-17) has piloted the team to a 35-9 overall record. Offensively, the Cardinals rely on all-State University of New York Athletic Conference selections Brianna Clarke and Erin Florkiewicz, who hit .395 and .390, respectively. The pair had six home runs each, one behind Megan Price who led the team with seven. SUNYAC Pitcher of the Year Ashley Marshall anchors the Cardinals’ pitching staff. She registered a 25-4 record with a stingy 1.41 ERA to go with 269 strikeouts in 184 innings pitched. SUNY-Plattsburgh went undefeated in its regional tournament and has now won five straight contests entering the Finals.
MONTCLAIR STATE (Montclair, N.J.): All-NFCA East Region selections Dana Amato and Alex Hill helped the Red Hawks clinch their sixth Finals appearance. Amato hits .340 for Montclair while pacing the team with nine home runs and 42 RBI. From the circle, Hill posted a spectacular 30-4 record with 18 shutouts and a 0.93 ERA in 234 1/3 innings pitched. Veteran coach Anita Kubicka is in her 22nd year and has won more than 700 games for the Red Hawks. Montclair has won an impressive 42 games so far this season, including a current four-game win streak coming off a sweep at the Union, New Jersey Regional Tournament. The Red Hawks opened the season winning 26 of their first 27 games and lost only seven all season.
TUFTS (Medford, Mass.): NFCA all-Region performer Jo Clair headlines a team of stellar all-around players. The Jumbos head to the Finals after winning their regional tournament for the third time in program history. Clair is batting .460 this season with 14 home runs and 55 RBI, all team-highs. Lena Cantone and Emily Beinecke both hit over .400 and were two of Tufts’ top RBI contributors with 30 and 37, respectively. Star pitcher Allyson Fournier was named Most Outstanding Player in the Jumbos’ regional, and on the season posted a nearly perfect 22-1 record with a 0.36 ERA and 275 strikeouts in 156 innings. While leading the Jumbos to an impressive 40-5 record, coach Cheryl Milligan boasts an impressive 261-103 career record in her ninth season at the helm. Tufts enters the tournament having won eight consecutive games.
LUTHER (Decorah, Iowa): Six all-Midwest Region Tournament selections helped propel the Norse to the Finals for the third consecutive season. Coach Renae Hartl is in her 11th season and currently holds a record of 329-134. Shari Huber leads the way for Luther, posting a .405 batting average, including 12 doubles. Kelsey Kittleson provides more offensive pop for the Norse, belting 10 home runs and driving in a team-high 49 runs. Lauran Snyder, Abby Christian, and Kelsey Weindruch each have more than 30 RBI for Luther, which has outscored opponents 283-89 for the season. The Norse ride the arm of Becca Girvan, who went 29-5 in 218 2/3 innings pitched with a 1.02 ERA and 249 strikeouts.
OHIO NORTHERN (Ada, Ohio): The 25th-ranked Polar Bears posted a 31-12 overall record under second-year coach Kim Burke. Her two-year cumulative record sits at 58-26 after helping Ohio Northern to a 5-1 record in the regional tournament to secure a spot in the Finals. Christin Miller is the key offensive catalyst for the Polar Bears, posting an impressive .447 average while leading the team with 45 runs scored and 76 hits. Kelly Sheridan hits .377 for Ohio Northern, while smacking 21 doubles and 43 RBI. Kimi Blewett led the way in the power categories with 12 home runs and 45 RBI. From the circle, Abbey Bensing and Katy Newman split pitching duties, combining to win 22 games and record 129 strikeouts. Six Polar Bears earned all-Ohio Athletic Conference honors. Joining Blewett, Miller, Sheridan, and Bensing were senior first baseman Katie Cretin and senior third baseman Cassie Gaye.
ROANOKE (Salem, Va.): A team loaded with seven all-Old Dominion Athletic Conference selections, the Maroons advance to the Finals for the third time in program history. Under co-ODAC Coach of the Year Mike Mitchell, Roanoke posted a 33-9 record, marking the 10th time the Maroons have recorded a 30-win season. First-team all-ODAC selection Felice Lowery and Stephanie Clark combined for 113 hits, batting .426 and .417, respectively. Leona Rainey, also a first-team all-ODAC pick, provides the majority of power for Roanoke, hitting eight home runs and driving in 31 runs while hitting just below .400 at .396. ODAC Co-Rookie of the Year Kelly Higbie posted a 28-8 record from the circle with 129 strikeouts and an outstanding 1.48 ERA. The Maroons’ workhorse logged 236 1/3 innings on the season, throwing six shutouts amongst 33 complete games.
PACIFIC LUTHERAN (Parkland, Wash.): First team all-NWC selection Kaaren Hatlen leads the Lutes in all major offensive categories, batting .442 with 10 home runs and 55 RBI. Fellow all-Northwest Conference honoree Amanda Goings swiped 23 bases in 25 attempts and contributed a solid .312 batting average. From the circle, two-time NWC Pitcher of the Year Stacey Hagensen posted a 24-5 record with 121 strikeouts and a stellar 1.02 ERA over 185 1/3 innings pitched. In her fourth season as coach, Erin Van Nostrand has built a 109-61 career record, guiding the Lutes to a school-record 41 wins this spring. The Lutes are 17-10 all-time in the NCAA playoffs. PLU received a berth to the Division III Championships for the sixth time in program history but first since 2002. Making their second Finals appearance, the Lutes’ best showing in the NCAA postseason came in 2002 when they placed fourth. PLU was twice crowned NAIA national champion (1988 and 1992) before joining Division III along with the rest of the NWC in 1998.
Past NCAA III Softball Champions
Staci Doucette, Karleigh Prestianni
Home run hitters back in Finals
Director of Sports Information
McMinnville, OR 97128