NAIA Softball Tournament Begins, Oregon Tech Opens with Northwood U.
GULF SHORES, Ala. - The 31 Annual National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Softball National Championship will begin on Thursday from the Gulf Shores Sportsplex in Gulf Shores, Ala. Thirty-two teams will participate in pool play format from Thursday through Saturday, with each club playing a total of three games. The eight pool-play champions will advance to double-elimination bracket competition starting on May 23. The national champion will be crowned May 25. The Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Sports Commission, in conjunction with the University of Mobile (Ala.), are hosting for the first time.
Of the teams that have appeared at least one previous time, Oregon Tech is breaking the longest drought. The Lady Owls (35-12) last made the trip in 1997. Oregon Tech will face Northwood University (Texas) in the opening round of the NAIA National Tournament on Thursday, May 19th with the first pitch set for 7:30 a.m.
Oregon Tech must win their four-team Pool over the first three days of play to advance to the eight-team double-elimination championship round beginning Monday, May 23rd.
Joining the Owls in Pool B are no. 3 seed Northwood University, no. 4 seed Midland University (Neb.), who the Owls face Friday, May 20th at 1 p.m. and no. 1 seed Trevecca Nazarene (Tenn.) on Saturday, May 21st at 3:30 p.m.
Northwood University (37-13), the Red River Athletic Conference champion, is making their third tournament appearance and is 0-6 in tournament play. Midland University (19-31), Great Plains Athletic Conference runner-up, is 2-4 in tournament action in three appearances, while Trevecca Nazarene University (46-3), Tran South Athletic Conference Tournament champion, is 14-11 in five appearances at the national tournament.
Every OIT game will be broadcasted live in the Klamath Basin on KLAD 960 AM, with Live Stats also available at oitsports.com.
Pool Play Schedule
Twenty-seven teams earned a ticket to Gulf Shores by winning its conference/independent/unaffiliated group tournaments. Four teams were awarded an at-large bid using the final Top 25 poll released on May 10. The host berth went to Mobile. The Southern States Athletic Conference sends the most teams to the National Championship with four. Belhaven (Miss.) and Shorter (Ga.) received the automatic bids, while William Carey (Miss.) is an at-large and Mobile gained the host berth.
MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) and Friends (Kan.) will kick-off the tournament with a 9 a.m. CDT game on Field 1. The Pioneers were champions of the Heart of America Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament. Friends earned the automatic bid as the tournament champion in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference.
Defending national champion Simon Fraser (B.C.), who is one of two teams with a sub-.500 record, begins the tournament with a 12:30 p.m. game on Thursday against Reinhardt (Ga.). The Clan (16-24), who are appearing in their 15th National Championship, are led by sophomore pitcher Cara Lukawesky. Named the Association of Independent Institutions Tournament MVP, she pitched four complete-game victories to lead Simon Fraser to the title. SFU is currently ranked second all-time in wins at the National Championship with 59.
No. 1-ranked California Baptist (59-3), who has been No. 1 all season in the Softball Coaches' Top 25 poll, faces newcomer SUNY Canton (N.Y.) at 2 p.m. on Thursday on Field 1. The Lancers are one of four squads with 50-plus wins entering the National Championship. SUNY Canton is one of seven teams who is making its first appearance in the National Championship. The other newcomers include: Central Baptist (Ark.), Davenport (Mich.), Iowa Wesleyan, Reinhardt, St. Thomas (Fla.) and Simpson (Calif.).
The all-time championship wins leader with a 99-36 record, Oklahoma City (44-12), matches up against Mobile at 1 p.m. on Field 4. The Stars are making their NAIA-record 25th overall trip and have played consecutively in the National Championship since 1992. Mobile (34-17) punched its ticket to Gulf Shores for the 16th overall time, which is ranked second-most among current participants.
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