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COLUMBUS, Ga. (May 22, 2013) - The 10-team double elimination tournament known as the "final site" of the 2013 NAIA Softball National Championship gets underway Friday at South Commons Softball Complex, but for No.2 Lubbock Christian University, they are one of two teams receiving a bye and will not play until 3 p.m. (Central) Saturday.
LCU will face the winner of an intriguing match-up between No.7 Auburn University at Montgomery and No.10 Spring Hill College. Intriguing because not only do the two teams open the tournament Friday morning, but each are members of the Southern States Athletic Conference meeting for the fifth time this season (AUM leads the season series 3-2), they each have pitching as a major strength and they are of close proximity to create a hometown environment to the neutral site location. Auburn Montgomery is located less than 80 miles away and Mobile, Ala. based Spring Hill College is less than four hours away.
Auburn Montgomery won the Lindsey Wilson Bracket of the Opening Round in Kentucky to advance to the final site. They are 44-10 on the season and completed play in the SSAC 17-7 to finish second in the conference. The Warhawks (formerly Senators) opened the season 13-0 and winners of 24 of their first 25 contest. They have not the same success recently, as they are 9-5 over their last 14 games. Their pitching ranks third in the NAIA in holding opponents to a .177 batting average. They also rank fourth in ERA (1.60) and fifth in strikeouts (420). Their pitching success has been charged up by Cassie Daniels (sophomore) and Taylor Powell (freshman). Daniels' allowance of 4.5 hits per nine innings ranks second in the NAIA, and her batters are batting .147 against her to rank third in the category. She has 237 strikeouts to rank eighth in the NAIA. Powell ranks in the top-20 in ERA with a team-best 1.41 ERA. Offensively, AUM is 10th in the NAIA in triples (17) and homers per game (1.1). Jyssica Pepper has six triples and ranks 10th in the NAIA. AUM is making their second appearance in the championships, as they went 4-2 last season in their postseason debut.
Spring Hill qualified to the final site after winning the South Carolina Beaufort Bracket. They head to Columbus with a 45-15 record and they were fifth in the SSAC with a 16-9 conference record. They opened the season 21-3, but have gone 7-6 over their last 13 games. The Badgers lead the NAIA in strikeouts with 498 and 430 of them have been rung up by freshman pitcher Caroline Sagrera. She leads the NAIA in the category and also in wins (35) and innings pitched (298). Sagrera has a 1.34 ERA (15th in the NAIA) and the team has a 1.64 ERA (fifth in the NAIA). At the plate, the Badgers rank 15th in doubles (90), with 22 hit by Shea Blanchard and Jade Bourgeois (each are fourth in the NAIA). Bourgeois leads the team batting .400. SHC is in the championships for the fourth time in program history, but it is their first appearance since 2003.
The Lady Chaps, who are in their sixth season in program history, have qualified to the championships all six seasons. They are 21-9 overall and one of only two teams in the NAIA postseason field with a national title (2008). They advanced to the final site after hosting an Opening Round bracket and defeating Houston-Victoria in the bracket championship game. LCU is 58-8 on the season and they won the Sooner Athletic Conference regular season title with a 22-2 mark. LCU has won 16 of their last 17 games and are 44-2 in their prior 46 games. Success for LCU has come from their speed and their pitching. LCU has already set the NAIA single-season record in stolen bases with 254. That number is produced off a NAIA leading 3.8 steals per game and 4.3 attempts per game. Mallory Koschany leads the NAIA in steals per game (1), attempts per game (1.1), total steals (69) and total attempts (74). The NAIA single-season record for steals is 80. Her speed has also led to seven triples (third in the NAIA). The Lady Chaps offense also ranks second in hits (649), runs (478), RBI (412), doubles (110) and is third in batting .376. They also rank in the top-10 in eight additional categories. In the circle, LCU has received success from freshman Katera Eltsosie and California Baptist transfer Courtney McGee. Eltsosie is fourth in the NAIA in wins (28) and ranks 13th with a 1.32 ERA. She averages 8.3 strikeouts per game. McGee is 18-0 on the season and holds a 1.90 ERA. McGee, who also hits .315 and has four homers at the plate, has been hit 28 times while at the plate, which is tied for a NAIA single season record.
The 10-team double elimination format is new to the NAIA this season, along with the introduction to Opening Round brackets. LCU is a combined 19-17 all-time against the 10-team field. Thirty-three (33) of the 36 games are against Oklahoma City University, which LCU holds a 16-17 record against. LCU is 1-1 against the field in the championships, falling to Oklahoma City in 2009 and defeating Reinhardt in 2011. If they open with Auburn Montgomery, the Lady Chaps are 1-0 all-time against the Warhawks. The prior meeting resulted in a 5-0 LCU win on Mar. 6, 2009 in Panama City Beach, Fl.
The Columbus Sports Council is the host and the event will be contested in the Peach State for the first time in championship history. Prior to this year, two cities in Alabama hosted the event since 2000, with Gulf Shores welcoming the teams in 2011 and 2012.
NeuLion, the NAIA's official video-streaming company of 18 select NAIA national championship events, will be broadcasting all 19 games. Single day packages can be purchased for $9.95, while an all-Championship pass is available for $29.95.