Coach Ron Faubion’s LadyStorm softballers will play three of the nation’s top-eight teams when the NCAA Division-II Leadoff Classic opens Friday in Tucson, Arizona.
The D-II poll is out and seven of the Top 25 will participate in the Classic. The 18-team event will feature six 3-team pools to determine bracket play.
The complete field: No. 8 Augustana, South Dakota; Southeastern; No. 2 UC-San Diego; No. 16 Central Oklahoma; No. 6 Minnesota-Mankato; Missouri-St. Louis; No. 22 Abilene Christian; Grand Canyon, Arizona; Nova Southeastern, Florida; New Haven, Connecticut; Regis, Colorado; Texas Woman’s; tie-No. 24 Dixie State, Utah; No. 23 Molloy, New York; West Texas A&M; Chowan, North Carolina; Colorado Mesa; and UC-San Bernardino.
Angelo State is No. 4, but not playing in the Leadoff Classic. Texas Woman’s and West Texas A&M each received votes in the poll.
Pool play will determine teams in Gold, Silver, Bronze and Copper championship brackets.
SE was lucky enough to draw the toughest pool in the Classic with Augustana and UC-San Diego.
Southeastern will open against Augustana at 9 a.m. Friday, followed by California-San Diego at 1 p.m.
Saturday’s slate will have Minnesota-Mankato at 9 a.m. and Missouri-St. Louis at noon.
Coach Faubion said, “This will be the best competition we will see all year. If we can compete here, we can compete anywhere. We have to find out how we compare with the top teams in the country and this is the only way to do it.
“If you had told us before the season started we would be 8-3 at this point, we might have doing celebration flips. We could have a better record and it could have been much worse.
“We’ve made some excellent plays and we’ve hurt ourselves. We will definitely have to be at the top of our game to compete at this level.”
The Storm will open the Classic against the Augustana Vikings. This will be the first game for the Vikings, who were 53-12 a year ago.
Also called the Augies, Augustana will have pitcher Jenelle Trautmann (20-6) to lead the way. She was also the leading hitter at .387 with 18 home runs and 59 runs batted in. Chelsi Winskowski hit .345 and stole 18 bases in 21 tries.
Theresa McMahon added 18 homers and 57 RBIs and is back for more.
UC-San Diego’s Tritons are next at bat, coming in at 6-2 with Pitcher of the Week Kayla Hensel, a 5-3 sophomore, leading the way at 5-0 with a 1.06 earned run average.
Nicole Spangler is the leading hitter with a .500 average and seven runs batted in. She has already been named Player of the Week.
UC-San Diego was the national runner-up last year and won the national championship in 2011.
Minnesota-Mankato, formerly known as Minnesota State, will open the season in the Classic.
The Mavericks’ Courtney McKelvogue returns after posting a 21-6 record last year. Lindsay Erickson is the top returning hitter at .429 with 11 homers and 42 runs batted in.
Missouri-St. Louis also opens in the Classic. The Tritons were 27-25 a year ago and will have pitcher Jena Boudreau back with her 10-8 record, 3.03 ERA and 82 strikeouts.
Brianna Butler is back to lead the way offensively. She hit .404 with 10 home runs and 45 RBIs a year ago. Madison Zbaraschuk hit .336 with nine homers and 42 runs batted in.
Out of four games, the LadyStorm will play two sets of Tritons. So what is a Triton? Glad you asked.
Triton: A positively-charged particle consisting of a proton and two neutrons, equivalent to the nucleus of an atom of tritium.
Triton: A son of Poseidon and Amphitrite, represented as having the head and trunk of a man and the tail of a fish, and as using a conch-shell trumpet.
You may prefer: Any of various chiefly tropical marine gastropod molluscs of the genera Charonia, Cymatium, etc., having large beautifully-coloured spiral shells.
Take your pick of definition. The LadyStorm will have a go at two sets of Tritons in the first four games.
Seems sort of an odd name for a women’s softball team.
The LadyStorm enter the Leadoff Classic with an 8-3 record and a team batting average of .293, nine home runs and 50 runs batted in.
The circle crew features Jacee Bennett (5-1, 2.22 ERA, 45 strikeouts) and Mindy McElroy (2-1, 2.96, 15 whiffs). Bennett has pitched 41 innings and held opponents to a .196 average. McElroy has worked 28.1 innings and limited opponents to a .275 mark.
Rachel Jones is batting .412 in 17 at-bats, Jessica Simmons hits .357 and leads the team with 42 at-bats, 10 runs, 15 hits, three doubles (tied) and a nifty eight steals in eight attempts.
Courtney Moore is batting .333 and leads the team with four home runs and 11 RBIs. Darrian Williams is hitting .333 with three doubles, the lone triple and is two for three in steals.
Whitney Hamilton is in double figures with 10 RBIs and is two for two in steals. Courtney Riddle was ripping the ball at a .556 clip before crashing into the fence in the Southeastern Regional Invitational. She has played six games with five hits and four runs in nine at-bats and may be cleared from her concussion for at least some action in the Classic. McElroy is batting .400 with six hits in 15 at-bats. She has five RBIs with four coming on a grand slam.
Southeastern will host Cameron in a February 19 doubleheader and from then on, it’s all-GAC all the time until the final regular-season twinbill against Northeastern in Durant on April 23.