The Heidelberg University softball team will travel to Alma, Michigan for the NCAA Regionals, beginning on Friday against Wittenberg at 1:00 p.m. The Student Princes are making their second consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament after winning back-to-back OAC tournaments. This also marks just the second NCAA tournament appearance in school history for the HU softball program. The Student Princes enter the tournament with a 28-11 record and went 10-8 during the regular season in OAC play.
HOW THEY GOT HERE
Heidelberg earned their spot in the NCAA tournament by winning the Ohio Athletic Conference tournament. After a magical 2015 season, the 2016 team found itself playing the role of the hunted, rather than the hunter. The Student Princes tied for fourth place in the OAC, but beat Marietta out for the fourth seed by a tiebreaker.
Given new life. the Student Princes opened the OAC tournament with a 6-1 win over then #18 Otterbein before defeating Muskingum 5-4 to earn a spot in Saturday's championship game. From there, the Berg earned the crown with a 4-2 win over the Muskies, holding off a late charge to earn the championship.
- Behind the plate, Mikaela Mitsch has been arguably the most prolific hitter in Heidelberg history and holds the career records in hits (198) and home runs (29). She earned first team All-OAC honors this year and currently is batting .480 on the year with six home runs and a team-high 40 RBI.
- At first base, senior Marissa Smego set a new school record this year with her 20 doubles thus far and is batting .394 on the season entering the regionals with 32 runs driven in.
- Lisa Simmons has had a surge towards the end of the year at second base for the Berg with a .370 batting average while Renee Lovett (.305 BA, 9 SB) provides some quality depth, as well as speed off of the bench.
- At shortstop, first team All-OAC honoree Kayla Zachrich is hitting .420 on the season with 50 hits, including three homers. She is the career leader in triples and has played (and started) all 157 games over the past four seasons.
- Kyleah Brey is another Student Prince that has come on strong towards the end of the year, playing third base while batting .375 in 24 at-bats with one home run. Abbey McKee has also played some time at third, but has primarily played as the DP in recent games. McKee leads Heidelberg with eight home runs on the year, including two in the OAC tournament.
- Taylor Hicks anchors the defense for the Student Princes in the outfield and has four outfield assists from center field on the year. The junior is also batting .311 on the year.
- Randi Kelsey primarily held down the right field position for the Berg during the OAC tournament and hit a crucial solo home run in the seventh inning of the championship game to give HU some breathing room late.
- Haylee Patel and Christine Bowling look to step in for Bailey Smith in left field, who was injured in the OAC Tournament.
IN THE CIRCLE
- Paige Atterholt and Erin Chapman provide a solid 1-2 punch for the Berg in the circle, each throwing some big innings down the stretch. Atterholt is Heidelberg's career leader in wins (48) and innings pitched (424.1). She boasts a 14-5 record this year with a 3.31 ERA while Chapman is 13.5 with a 2.81 ERA.
Wittenberg University (32-7-1, 13-3 North Coast Athletic Conference)
The Tigers earned their spot in the NCAA Tournament by winning the NCAC tournament, defeating DePauw 12-3 in a winner-take-all championship game. Wittenberg is led in the circle by sophomore Chelsea Zang, who was named this year's NCAC pitcher of the year. Zang has posted an 18-5 record entering the NCAA Tournament with a 1.43 ERA with opponents managing just a .202 batting average against her. Freshman Katy Baumgartner leads the Tigers with a .413 batting average while leadoff hitter Loren Combs led the NCAC with 28 stolen bases.
No. 14 Alma College (32-8, 14-2 Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association)
The Scots also earned their bid by winning their conference tournament, defeating Trine 1-0 to earn the MIAA crown. Junior Morgan Stratton, this year's MIAA pitcher of the year, has been one of the top pitchers in the nation and currently leads all of NCAA Division III with a 0.72 ERA in 166 innings pitched. She is not the only solid starter for Alma, as sophomore Katie McClure has thrown 111.1 innings on the year with a 1.70 ERA. Offensively, Sarah Collier has been one of the top contributors for the Scots, earning first team All-MIAA honors after batting .351 with four home runs and 31 RBI thus far. Mary Brooks has been dangerous at the plate as well and enters the NCAA tournament batting .369 with a .615 slugging percentage.
Benedictine University (33-14, 15-7 Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference)
The Eagles won the NACC tournament for the fifth time in six years to claim their spot in this year's NCAA tournament. Junior Holly Haberkorn (19-6, 1.59 ERA) and senior Melissa Guzior (14-8, 1.33 ERA) provide a solid 1-2 punch for Benedictine in the circle. On offense, Courtney Grasz leads the Eagles with a .397 batting average and 60 hits, which earned her first team All-NACC honors. Melissa Stoch (7 HR, 35 RBI) and Kailee Cable (6 HR, 40 RBI) provide power in the middle of the lineup for Benedictine.
The regional tournament is slated for a 2-3-2 format, though weather could force an altered schedule.
Game 1 - Heidelberg vs. Wittenberg, 1 p.m.
Game 2 - Benedictine vs. Alma, 3:30 p.m.
Game 3 - Winner of Game 1 vs. Winner of Game 2, 11 a.m.
Game 4 - Loser of Game 1 vs. Loser of Game 2, 1:30 p.m.
Game 5 - Loser of Game 3 vs. Winner of Game 4, 4 p.m.
Game 6 - Winner of Game 3 vs. Winner of Game 5, Noon
Game 7 - Same teams, if necessary
Tickets for the regional will be sold on a daily basis and priced as follows, per NCAA rules:
- $6 for adults
- $4 for senior citizens and veterans
- $3 for students and children under the age of 12
- Children age 2 and under are admitted free with a paying adult