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COLUMBUS, Ga. (May 25, 2013) – No.2 Lubbock Christian University aims to take advantage of an opening round bye Saturday at South Commons Softball Complex, as they play their first game at the final site of the 2013 NAIA Softball National Championship at 3 p.m. (Central) facing Spring Hill College.
Spring Hill opened the final site in grand style Friday, as they upset Auburn Montgomery 6-3 in a 14-inning marathon. The winning run came off a three-run walk-off home run by Shea Blanchard. Caroline Sagrera pitched all 14 innings for SHC and struck out 12 batters, while holding AUM to six hits. LCU and Concordia (Calif.) each received first round byes as the top two seeds.
The Badgers qualified to the final site after winning the South Carolina Beaufort Bracket. They head to the game with a 46-15 record and they were fifth in the SSAC with a 16-9 conference record. They opened the season 21-3, but have gone 8-6 over their last 14 games. The Mobile, Ala. based squad leads the NAIA in strikeouts with 510 and 442 of them have been rung up by freshman pitcher Caroline Sagrera. She leads the NAIA in the category and also in wins (36) and innings pitched (312). Sagrera has a 1.35 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 fifth in the NAIA). Bourgeois leads the team batting .393. 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.
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. Saturday's game for LCU will be carried live on the radio on KJAK 92.7 FM, with John Hill, Larry Hays and Chris Due working the broadcast. The audio will also simulcast via www.lcuchaps.com. 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.