Spartans Dancing into NCAA South Regional

Spartans Dancing into NCAA South Regional

INDIANAPOLIS, In. - The University of Tampa softball team secured their spot in the 2019 NCAA DII postseason, earning the fifth seed in the South Region. It is the first tournament appearance since 2015, when UT won the Sunshine State Conference. The double-elimination format will begin on Thursday, May 9 and conclude with the Regional Championship on Saturday afternoon, May 11.

The Spartans will be matched up with the four seed, No. 18 Valdosta State, in the first round; the Blazers accumulated 35 wins and 16 losses during the regular season. One of those losses came against Tampa on February 10 in the NFCA Leadoff Classic. UT handed then-ranked No. 22 VSU their first loss (2-1) of the season, and it was the first victory over Valdosta State since 2008. Makaleigh Dooley went a complete game, allowing one unearned run on five hits and struck out six batters. With runners on base, VSU went 2-for-16 at the plate as Dooley stranded seven base-runners. First pitch is scheduled for 4:30pm on May 9, the winner will play on May 10 at 2:00 pm and the loser will play at 4:30 pm on Friday afternoon. 

"We are pleased to make it back to postseason," said head coach Leslie Kanter, "The competition is top in the country and we are very excited to be apart of it."

The host and the top-seed in the DII South Region, No. 2 West Florida, will open up with the eighth-seeded Spring Hill Badgers. First pitch is scheduled for 2:00 pm on May 9. The programs have matched up on three occasions this year as the Argonauts swept the season series, out-scoring the Badgers 21-3. The remaining four seeds (#2 Florida Tech, #3 Alabama-Huntsville, #6 Saint Leo, and #7 Mississippi College) in the South Region will face off in Melbourne, Fla.

About the (#5) Spartans (32-11, 22-8 SSC): UT has won 22 of their last 24 games, which includes a school-record 19-game winning streak. The 22 wins in conference is an all-time high at the University of Tampa, while the 32 overall wins are the most since 2014. In the last game of the season, Dooley etched her name in the record books with her 26th victory of the year, the most wins in a season in UT history. The senior ranks second in the NCAA with her 26 wins and sits at ninth nationally in strikeouts with 214. Additionally, the right-hander earned SSC Pitcher of the Year for the second consecutive season, only the eighth SSC athlete to win the award twice. Freshman shortstop, Stephanie Balmer, was named to the All-SSC Second Team following her rookie campaign. Balmer finished the year with a hit in 11 of the final 13 games, including multiple hits in four of those contests. The Tampa native played in all 43 games this season and she was the first UT freshman to be honored by the conference since 2012. Maddie Farrell played a huge role in the teams' success with her .300 batting average, 24 RBI, and 14 walks. The junior back-stop led the team in RBI, and gunned down 10 runners on 19 attempts. Farrell ended the regular season reaching base safely in 25 straight games. 

About the (#4) Blazers (35-16, 14-12 GSC): The Blazers have made the tournament in every season dating back to 2011. VSU went 2-2 in the Gulf South Conference tournament this past weekend, where they ran into West Florida and a five-hour rain delay. The Argonauts dropped the Blazers, 9-0, in mercy-rule fashion. VSU dropped two of three games to UWF in the regular season. After starting the season 8-0, UT ruined the perfect record and VSU dropped two of their next five games. However, the Blazers have significant wins on their resume; defeating then-ranked No. 2 Southern Arkansas (2-0), No. 3 North Georgia (3-2), and No. 18 Palm Beach Atlantic (11-0). Valdosta State has a powerful offense in which six players (with at least 75 at-bats) own a batting average above .290. Haley Garrett leads the offense with 52 hits (.356), and ranks second in doubles (8) and home runs (10). Kiley Robb contains the power in the lineup with 12 homers, 38 RBI and 10 doubles; Robb leads in all three categories. 

About the (#1) Argonauts (47-8, 25-4 GSC): In her first season as head coach, Ashliegh McLean led her team to a conference tournament championship and the top seed in the South Region as they ended the regular season ranked No. 2 nationally. West Florida enjoyed their regular season campaign at the UWF Softball Complex, racking up 22 wins while losing only once at home. Tampa has several common opponents with UWF: FIT defeated the Argonauts 1-0 on Feb. 8, Florida Southern split the double-header on April 25, while Saint Leo, Eckerd, PBA, and West Chester lost their matchups with West Florida. UWF has made the postseason 13 times in 34 seasons, and they went 1-2 in last year's South Regional. The Argonauts are led by freshman sensation Teala Howard, a top-25 finalist for the NFCA Player of the Year, who is sporting a .466 average in a team-leading 178 at-bats. Howard has logged 83 hits, 21 more than the second-best player Rhiannon Sassman. Sassman, GSC Player of the Year, leads in the power categories with 14 doubles, eight triples, and 48 RBI. 

About the (#8) Badgers (30-19, 17-2 SIAC): Spring Hill secured their first-ever tournament berth by winning the SIAC Tournament, out-scoring their opponents 24-4 in the four games. The Badgers finished the regular season winning 10 of the last 11 games, then swept four straight in the conference tournament. The tournament championship was a first for SHC and head coach Steve Kittrell, who won SIAC Coach of the Year. The Badgers will look to Hannah Brenton in the circle, as she was tabbed the SIAC Pitcher of the Year. The sophomore pitcher went 15-5 on the season with a 2.77 ERA, and 105 strikeouts in 143 innings pitched. Spring Hill is led offensively by Delaney Thomas, who owns a .383 batting average and leads the team in doubles (17), home runs (9) and RBI (43). Thomas was honored by the SIAC as a First Team selection, along with teammates Brenton, catcher Aly Fowler, and outfielder Caroline Hart. 

NCAA TOURNAMENT BREAKDOWN:

On April 17, the DII softball selection committee began releasing the first of three weekly regional rankings. The NCAA revealed the top 10 teams in each of the eight regions. While this provided insight on the potential 64 teams, nothing was decided until the conference tournaments were completed and ultimately today's selection show released the final 64.

Of the 64 teams, the 24 conference tournament champions received an automatic bid to the tournament. Giving the selection committee the task of picking the remaining 40 teams to complete the bracket. How do they make these selections? They take a look at a wide array of aspects, including, but not limited to:

  • Availability of student-athletes
  • DII winning percentage
  • DII strength of schedule
  • DII head-to-head competition
  • Results versus common and ranked DII opponents
  • In-Region RPI

HOW THE TOURNAMENT WORKS:

The 2019 DII softball championship operates like the Division I tournament and Women's College World Series beginning with Regional play, then moving onto Super Regional play, and then concluding with eight teams in the finals. Once the 64 teams are selected, four teams will participate in 16 different regional sites, with the top seed earning host privileges. You can click here for a look at what that bracket will look like.

Here's the exciting part. Once the 16 teams advance, they will move on to the Super Regionals. You can get a first look at what that bracket will look like by clicking here. There will be eight Super Regional series, pitting two teams against each other in a best-of-three battle at one host site.

The eight winners will head to The Regency Athletic Complex at MSU Denver for the DII softball championship finals. The eight teams that advance will earn a seed and begin a double elimination tournament in which the final two teams standing will play a best-of-three series to determine the 2019 national champion. 

HISTORY:

Southern Indiana is your defending national champions. The Screaming Eagles entered the 2018 DII softball championship finals as the eight seed, and behind one of the best pitching performances in recent history, Jennifer Leonhardt and company captured the program's first title. Southern Indiana took the championship with a two-game sweep over runner-up Saint Anselm. A team has not won back-to-back championships since California (Pa.) did so in 1997 and 1998. 

The 2019 DII softball championship returns to Denver for the second time in the past four seasons. The first — and previously only — time was in the 2016 DII Spring Festival where North Alabama defeated Humboldt State for the championship. Here's a look at how every national championship series has ended.

YEAR CHAMPION (RECORD) COACH SCORE RUNNER-UP SITE
2018 *Southern Indiana (40-23) Sue Kunkle 8-3 Saint Anselm Salem, Va.
2017 *Minnesota State (64-7) Lori Meyer 5-1 Angelo State Salem, Va.
2016 North Alabama (60-7) Ashley Cozart 4-1 Humboldt State Denver
2015 North Georgia (54-8) Mike Davenport 5-0 Dixie State Oklahoma City
2014 *West Texas A&M (60-7) Kevin Blaskowski 3-2 Valdosta State Salem, Va.
2013 *Central Oklahoma (51-11) Genny Stidham 5-2 Kutztown Salem, Va.
2012 Valdosta State (58-5) Thomas Macera 4-1 UC San Diego Louisville, Ky.
2011 UC San Diego Patti Gerckens 10-3 Alabama-Huntsville Salem, Va.
2010 *Hawaii Pacific (50-8) Bryan Nakasone 4-3 Valdosta State Saint Joesph, Mo.
2009 Lock Haven (51-6) Kelly Green 8-0 Alabama-Huntsville Salem, Va.
2008 *Humboldt State (57-18) Frank Cheek 1-0 Emporia State Houston
2007 *SIU Edwardsville (49-8) Sandy Montgomery 3-2 Lock Haven Akron, Ohio
2006 *Lock Haven (56-4) Kelly Green 3-0 Emporia State Salem, Va.
2005 * **Lynn (54-7) Thomas Macera 5-3 Kennesaw State Salem, Va.
2004 Angelo State (47-11 Travis Scott 7-3 Florida Southern Altamonte Springs, Fla.
2003 *UC Davis (53-15) Kathy DeYoung 7-0 Georgia College Salem, Ore.
2002 St. Mary's (Texas) (58-11) Donna Fields 4-0 Grand Valley State Salem, Va.
2001 Nebraska-Omaha (54-6) Jeanne Tostenson 4-0 Lewis Salem, Va.
2000 North Dakota State (68-10) Mitch Hanson 3-1 Kennesaw State Columbus, Ga.
1999 Humboldt State (55-7-1) Frank Cheek 7-2 Nebraska-Kearney Salem, Va.
1998 California (Pa.) (49-7) Rick Bertagnolli 2-1 Barry Pensacola, Fla.
1997 *California (Pa.) (53-5) Rick Bertagnolli 2-1 Wisconsin-Parkside Salem, Va.
1996 Kennesaw State (49-8) Scott Whitlock 6-4 Nebraska-Omaha Emporia, Kan.
1995 Kennesaw State (53-5) Scott Whitlock 3-2 Bloomsburg Salem, Va.
1994 Merrimack (45-4) Michele Myslinski 6-2 Humboldt State Shawnee, Kan.
1993 Florida Southern (45-11) Chris Bellotto 11-5 Augustana (S.D.) Shawnee, Kan.
1992 Missouri Southern State (50-7) Pat Lipira 1-0 Cal State East Bay Shawnee, Kan.
1991 *Augustana (SD) (61-4-1) Sandy Jerstad 3-2 Bloomsburg Midland, Mich.
1990 Cal State Bakersfield (44-11) Kathy Welter 6-2 Cal State Northridge Midland, Mich.
1989 Cal State Bakersfield (38-23) Kathy Welter 8-5 Sacramento State Sacramento, Calif.
1988 Cal State Bakersfield (54-9-1) Kathy Welter 4-3 Lock Haven Sacramento, Calif.
1987 Cal State Northridge (58-7) Gary Torgeson 4-0 Florida Southern Quincy, Ill.
1986 *Stephen F. Austin (38-15-1) Dianne Baker 1-0 Cal State Northridge Akron, Ohio
1985 *Cal State Northridge (62-19) Gary Torgeson 2-1 Akron Northridge, Calif.
1984 *Cal State Northridge (51-12-2) Gary Torgeson 1-0 Akron Sioux Falls, S.D.
1983 *Cal State Northridge (35-20-2) Gary Torgeson 1-0 Sam Houston State Orange, Calif.
1982 Sam Houston State (40-6) Wayne Daigle 3-2 Cal State Northridge Stratford, Conn.

*Indicates undefeated teams in finals series

** Lynn's participation in the 2005 tournament vacated by NCAA Committee on Infractions.

NCAA Regional Ticket Information:
Ticket Type        Group                    Price
All Tournament Pass    Adult                    $20.00
All Tournament Pass     Senior 65+/youth 12 and under        $12.00
All Tournament Pass    Student                $12.00
Day Pass        Adult                    $8.00
Day Pass        Senior (65+)youth 12 and under    $5.00
Day Pass        Student                $5.00
Children ages 2 and under are free

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