USCAA Softball National Championship Preview

USCAA Softball National Championship Preview

Last Year’s Finalists Return as Top Seeds in the 2018 Field

DuBois, PA – On Sunday, May 13th, twenty teams from thirteen states across the nation will land in DuBois, Pennsylvania in hopes of a national title in baseball and softball.  The 2018 baseball field will feature the most diverse field in Small College History, with teams hailing from nine of the thirteen states represented in the entire series including Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Mississippi, Florida, and Alabama.  The Softball National Championship will add teams from Indiana, New Hampshire, Maine, and Illinois.  Each championship is a double elimination tournament, which will be played out at Showers Field (Baseball) and Heindl Memorial Field (Softball) from May 13-17. 

The Small College World Series kicks off on Sunday with the All-American banquet at the DuBois Country Club at 1pm.  The Parade of Athletes and Home Run Derby will take place at Showers Field beginning at 6pm with Softball and 7:15pm with baseball.  A firework show for the participants and community will cap off the evening. The event is free and open to the public. 

The 2018 softball field is highlighted by two rivals who met in last year’s National Championship final. The Saint Mary of the Woods Pomeroys come into the tournament with three-straight USCAA Softball National Championship crowns. However, it’s the Cleary University Cougars – last year’s runner-up – who take the honor of being the top-seeded team in the tournament. In the regular season the Cougars bested the Pomeroys in three of four games setting the stage for perhaps another showdown between the USCAA softball powerhouses in DuBois.

Cleary returns two All-Tournament team members from the 2017 squad, pitcher Riley Thompson and first baseman Katlin Dormire. Joining them is 2017 All-American Sarah Hall, who sets the tone for the Cleary offense with a .422 batting average and 34 stolen bases from the leadoff spot. Dormire (8) and Jordan Schneider (11) have combined for 19 home runs on the season to power one of the top offenses in the field. Thompson is a legitimate contender for Player of the Year honors coming off a season in which she went 12-3 with a 1.93 ERA in 101 innings of work.

The Cougars aren’t the only ones returning several key members from their 2017 team. The Pomeroys have 2017 All-American and Tournament MVP Hollie Jones back into the fold. Arguably the best hitter in the field, Jones has recorded a .504/.533/.740 slash line in 2018 with only 2 strikeouts in 135 plate appearances. The team’s ace, Taylor Andrew, another member of the 2017 All-American team will be back in the circle as well. Andrew is 11-7 with a 2.14 ERA with 81 strikeouts in 114 innings in 2018. Joining Jones in the Pomeroys’ lineup will be senior Kerri Schrock who leads the team with 7 home runs, and junior Baylee Waters who has a .330 batting average.

As the top two seeds in the field, Cleary and Saint Mary of the Woods will await the winner of the first two contests of the tournament. At 10:00 AM on Monday, June 4th #7 Mississippi University for Women will face #10 Penn State Beaver in the first game of the tournament. The winner will move on to face St. Mary of the Woods that evening at 6:00 PM. Following that game, at 12:00 PM, will be #8 Penn State Schuylkill versus #9 Robert Morris University-Springfield.

Mississippi University for Women heads to DuBois as one of the best stories of the tournament. After restarting athletics after more than 15 years, “The W” has earned a spot in the field as a first-year program. A lineup featuring Kristen Martin (.380/.504/.489) and Heidi Matthews (.356/.463/.436) is tops in the USCAA in walks. In the circle, Mississippi University for Women will turn to Madison Scoggin who has a 2.58 ERA in 94 innings of work.

Penn State Beaver returns to the championships for a third straight year. Beaver went 24-15 on the season and finished third in the Penn State University Athletic Conference (PSUAC). The Lions are bringing back their top pitcher from last year, 2017 All-American Vanessa Jackson. Jackson’s exploits in the circle and at the plate pace this team. She’s pitched 143 innings with 121 strikeouts and a 2.64 ERA to go along with a .431/.489/.545 slash line in 139 plate appearances. Other players to watch are freshman Kayla Campbell who leads the team with 33 RBI’s and Jessica Hughes who has posted a .522 on-base percentage and .542 slugging percentage.

This will mark Penn State Schuylkill’s first trip to the USCAA Softball National Championship since 2015. The PSUAC runner-up boasts a potent lineup that finished first in the USCAA in RBI’s, second in runs, fourth in hits, and fifth in home runs. Opponents will need to account for the senior duo of Makenna Rushannon and Erin Luckenbill, both of whom are hitting over .400 with slugging percentages over .600. Rushannon also leads the team with 28 stolen bases and 51 runs scored. Another senior, Stephanie Killian, posted a .529/.549/.702 slash line and leads the team with 41 RBI’s.

Robert Morris University-Springfield just missed making the tournament field in 2017 but secured their spot this year on the strength of a 5-2 record against USCAA competition, including a four-game split with defending National Champions Saint Mary of the Woods College. This will be the Eagles first trip to the tournament since 2010, when they won the championship. When they arrive in DuBois, Robert Morris will turn to Savannah Anzaldua and Melissa Benson to lead their offense. Benson is hitting .433 on the year with a .730 slugging percentage while Anzaldua hit .403 with 10 doubles and 21 RBI’s in 24 games.

The two winner bracket quarterfinal matchups that have been set are #3 Carlow University versus #6 University of Maine-Presque Isle at 4:00 PM and #4 NHTI versus #5 Penn State Brandywine at 2:00 PM on May 14th. With the exception of NHTI, all are returning to the field from 2017 – with Carlow and Penn State Brandywine having finished third and fourth respectively. NHTI made the field in 2014, 2015, and 2016, and is back with one its most talented teams.

Carlow University hvae been a top-three finisher in this field over the last three years. The Celtics consistently put together top teams but are still in search of their first National Championship. This squad ranks in the top 10 nearly every offensive and defensive category. Catcher Abby Tatgenhorst leads the Carlow offense with a .463 batting average and .521 on-base percentage. Abby Stroud has a sterling 1.81 ERA in 120 innings pitched, and also leads the team with four home runs. The Celtics also have a deep cast of productive freshmen, including Samantha Wampler, Adrianna Gottheld, Tristan Voss, and Alysa Fairman.

The sixth-seeded Owls from University of Maine-Presque Isle are back with both of their 2017 All-Americans, first-teamer Sara Packard and second-teamer Nicole Marucci. However, the story for this team in 2018 has been the play of freshman Melanee Terry. With a .534 batting average, .909 slugging percentage, and just two strikeouts in 111 plate appearances Terry has been one of the most productive hitters in the association. Joining her in the lineup will be Marissa Reagle (.382/.440/.549) and Jordi Legassie (.468/.488/.608). Packard returns to the circle after throwing 143 innings with 128 strikeouts and a 3.42 ERA in 2018. 

NHTI’s return to the field coincides with the return of standouts Tori Lemay and Masha Lange. Lemay, a three-time All-American, threw 106 innings with a USCAA best 162 strikeouts and a 1.39 ERA. Lange was second in the association in home runs (10) and slugging percentage (1.000). As a team, the Lynx led the USCAA in home runs and were second in hits, doubles, extra base hits, and runs batted in. The Lynx have won 24 straight games prior to tournament play.

If you’re looking for offense, Penn State Brandywine has you covered. The Lions rank first in the USCAA in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. Brandywine has five starters hitting over .465 on the season, including Alexa Anderson and Rachel Cherubini who have hit over .500. Katy Steffen is hitting .488 on the season with 7 home runs and an association leading 1.023 slugging percentage. In the circle Brandywine will feature Katie DeStefano, a 2017 Second-Team All-American, who has compiled a 3.70 ERA in 138 innings of work.

Fans wishing to attend the Small College World Series can find brackets, up to date news stories, and links to buy tickets at www.smallcollegeworldseries.com.  Tickets are $10 per day, which gets you into unlimited sessions at both the Baseball and Softball National Championships.  There is a steep discount for Clearfield County residents.  Those who can’t make the trip to DuBois can use the site to watch live.  All games are free of charge for SD version.  An HD upgrade is available for just $6.95 for most games. 

To learn more about the USCAA, visit their main website at www.theuscaa.com