Bucs to play in NCAA Division III tournament Friday - SWX Right Now-Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA

Bucs to play in NCAA Division III tournament Friday

Courtesy: Whitworth Athletics Courtesy: Whitworth Athletics

By Whitworth Athletics

SPOKANE, Wash. – The Whitworth University softball team will be playing in the NCAA Division III tournament for the third time in school history and for the second straight season when the Pirates take on the University of Texas – Dallas and East Texas Baptist University this weekend in the Marshall, Texas regional.  The field includes just three teams and the winner will advance to the Super Regional round next weekend. 

Check the online Whitworth softball schedule for live links to this weekend's games.

Click here for the Marshall Regional tournament website, provided by ETBU.

Claiming a Title: Whitworth earned its third straight Northwest Conference regular season title in 2017 and the Pirates claimed their first ever NWC tournament championship.  Whitworth finished the conference season with a 23-5 record, two games ahead of Linfield College in the standings.  The Pirates then went 3-1 at the NWC tournament to claim the league's automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs for the first time.

Wins record:  The Pirates have set a school record for wins in a season.  The previous record was 31, set in 2015 when the Bucs went 31-12.  Whitworth also achieved 30 wins in one season in 2007 when the team finished 30-6.

Perez Powers: Madi Perez is closing out her stellar Pirate pitching career in dominating fashion.  Selected as the 2017 Northwest Conference Pitcher of the Year, Perez is 23-4 with a 1.57 ERA.  She has tossed 19 complete games, including 10 shutouts.  Perez has set school records for pitching victories in one season and in a career (61).

All-NWC Honors:  The Pirates were well-represented on the 2017 All-Northwest Conference softball team.  Joining Perez on the first team were sophomore IF Michelle Silva, senior OF Shannon Wessel and senior DP Myranda Ramirez.  Silva is batting .374 and ranks among NWC leaders in RBIs (42), home runs (7) and stolen bases (17).  Wessel is hitting .385 with 37 RBIs and five home runs.  Ramirez leads the Pirates in batting average (.392), which ranks second in the NWC.

In addition, freshman OF Kinsey McNaught earned second team recognition and was voted as the NWC Freshman of the Year.  Senior shortstop Tessa Matthews also received second team consideration.  Head coach Cristal Brown was voted by her peers as the NWC Coach of the Year for the second straight season.

Well-Rounded Bunch of Bucs:  Whitworth's 35-9 record is no fluke.  The Pirates are excelling at all three phases of the game in 2017.  Whitworth ranks second in the NWC in several offensive categories, including batting average (.323), runs scored (224), RBIs (205), and they are first in hits (397) and walks (113).  Whitworth also ranks first in team fielding percentage (.973).  Finally, the Pirates rank third in team ERA (2.99) and first in total shutouts (12). 

The Opponents: UT Dallas is the top-seeded team at the Marshall Regional.  The Comets (36-8) finished third in American Southwest Conference standings with a 24-6 record, but stormed through the ASC Tournament to claim their first-ever trip to the NCAA Division III playoffs.  UTD defeated ASC regular season champion and defending NCAA Division III champion Texas-Tyler twice in the ASC tournament.  Senior pitcher Lauren McCloud was the ASC Tournament MVP and also earned first team All-Conference recognition this spring.  She has an 18-1 record with a 2.27 ERA.  Sophomore OF Melissa Livermore leads the team in batting average (.443), stolen bases (43) and runs scored (46) and also earned first team All-ASC recognition.

East Texas Baptist (35-8) is the #2 seed in the regional, and the tournament host school.  The Tigers finished second during the ASC regular season with a 25-5 record and went 2-2 in the ASC tournament with losses to both UTD and Texas-Tyler.  ETBU is making its 13th appearance at the NCAA DIII tournament, including the last five straight seasons.  The Tigers won a national title in 2010.  Junior pitcher Jordan Anderson earned first team All-ASC with a 15-3 record and a 2.49 ERA.  Sophomore utility player Linzie Lewis ranks second in the ASC in batting average (.463) and set a school record for hits (68).  She has stolen 30 bases in 32 attempts.

Tournament Format:  A three-team NCAA regional is set up as a round-robin schedule to start with.  As the #3 seed, the Pirates are scheduled to play the first two games on Friday.  UTD and ETBU will play the third game in the early slot on Saturday.  The rest of the schedule depends on how many teams remain in the double-elimination format.  Here is the schedule and scenarios:

NCAA D-III Softball Three-Team Regional Schedule
Game 1 - UT Dallas vs. Whitworth, Friday, 4 p.m.
Game 2 - Whitworth vs. East Texas Baptist, Friday, 7 p.m.
Game 3 - East Texas Baptist vs. UT Dallas, Saturday, 2 p.m.

Scenario One (if two teams remain)
Game 4 - 2-0 Team vs. 1-1 Team, Saturday, 5 p.m.
Game 5 - If necessary game, Sunday, 1 p.m.

Scenario Two (if all teams are 1-1)
Game 4 – No. 2 seed vs. No. 3 seed, Saturday, 5 p.m.
Game 5 – No. 1 seed vs. winner of Game 4, Sunday, 1 p.m.

NCAA Tournament History:  Whitworth first played softball in 1998 and the Pirates have made the NCAA Division III tournament two times previously.  Whitworth was selected as an at-large team in 2006 and played at the eight-team regional hosted by the University of Redlands.  The Bucs fell to the host Bulldogs 3-1 then lost to top-seeded Chapman University 4-3. 

Whitworth picked up a second at-large invitation in 2016 and was also selected to host a four team regional.  But the Pirates struggled, losing to eventual winner Linfield 6-0 in the first game and also to Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 3-0 in the loser-out contest.

The Coach: Assisted by Randy Clark and Bob Castle, head coach Cristal Brown is in her sixth season at the helm of the program and has a 164-93 record heading into the NCAA tournament.  She has been selected as the Northwest Conference Coach of the Year in both 2016 and 2017.  Brown has had 28 players earn All-NWC recognition and 11 honored as All-Region performers. In her consecutive seasons leading the team to Northwest Conference titles (2015, 2016 and 2017), Brown and the Pirates have a combined record of 108-40.

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