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NAIA Softball opening round/LW Bracket today at Sparks Park

Be a City of Columbia welcoming host when needed today. If visitors ask, give them the street and number for Sparks Park. Commit to memory, "928 Russell Road, Columbia, KY." The visitors may not have time to thank you as they plug the number into their phone, mutter "Got it" and speed off for the the game, but you can bet they'll appreciate our town more for the elementary courtesy. - CM

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From Matthew Wurzburger
News from Lindsey Wilson College

COLUMBIA, KY - Action in the 2017 NAIA Softball National Championship Opening Round Lindsey Wilson Bracket begins Monday at 1pmCT at Marilyn D. Sparks Park, inside the Lindsey Wilson Sports Complex, 928 Russell Road, Columbia, KY.

Today's Schedule at Marilyn D. Sparks Park:
- 01:00pmCT, Mon 15 May 2017: Corban (OR) v Taylor (IN)
- 03:30pmCT, Mon 15 May 2017: Lindsey Wilson College v Madonna (MI)
Top-seeded Lindsey Wilson is joined in its bracket by No. 2-seeded Corban (OR), No. 3-seeded Taylor (IN) and No. 4-seeded Madonna (MI).

The winner of the double-elimination bracket advances to the NAIA Softball World Series, which runs May 26 through June 1 at Legends Way Ball Fields,2350 Legends Way, Clermont, FL

Tuesday's slate features three games at noon, 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. CT. The championship game is set for Wednesday at noon CT with an if-necessary game to follow.

The Blue Raiders have served as an Opening Round host institution for five seasons in a row and have been tabbed as a No. 1 seed in each of the last three seasons. Lindsey Wilson has won its Opening Round bracket twice in the previous four years and are 11-4 in Opening Round contests.

In total, 40 teams compete in Opening Round brackets across 10 institutions with the winner of each tournament advancing to the 37th annual NAIA Softball World Series, a 10-team, double-elimination tournament.

Lindsey Wilson (39-11) enters the NAIA Opening Round after receiving an at-large bid and was ranked No. 6 in the latest coaches' poll. The Blue Raiders reached the championship game of the Mid-South Conference Tournament before falling to Cumberlands (KY) 2-1. LWC claimed the conference's regular season title after posting a 21-1 record in MSC tilts.

The Blue Raiders boast 10 MSC All-Conference honorees, including Casey Bryan - the conference's Pitcher of the Year. Bryan is 22-6 this year with a 1.79 earned run average across 176 innings of work.

As a team, Lindsey Wilson holds a 1.93 ERA - the 18th lowest mark in the NAIA. Opponents are batting only .239 against the Blue Raiders this season and have struck out 288 times.

Amber Foukes - a First Team All-MSC selection - powers Lindsey Wilson's offense. The sophomore leads her team with 47 runs driven in, which ranks third in the conference. In addition, Foukes shares the team lead with 10 home runs while batting .311.

Corban (40-11) is making its third appearance in the Opening Round after receiving an automatic bid as the Cascade Collegiate Conference's regular season champion. The Warriors went 22-5 in conference play and also reached the CCC Tournament Title Game before falling 4-1 to Southern Oregon.

The Warriors rank eighth in the nation with a .345 team batting average. Six Corban hitters tote batting averages of .310 or better while averaging at least two at-bats per contest. Iris Rodriguez leads all batters with a .413 average. Jessie Isham - the CCC's Newcomer of the Year - has tallied a team-best 58 runs scored while hitting .384.

Corban wreaks havoc on the bases and is 12th in the nation with 108 stolen bases on 127 total attempts. Five Warriors have 10 or more stolen bases, led by Maddy Melton's 31.

In the circle, Sabrina Boyd and Allie Mendez shoulder the brunt of the work for Corban. Boyd is 21-4 this season with a 1.49 ERA over 178 innings and received CCC Pitcher of the Year honors. Mendez carries a 13-4 record and a 2.52 ERA in 128 innings of work. The duo has combined for 144 strikeouts.

Corban enters Monday ranked No. 14 and is 4-4 all-time in the Opening Round. The Warriors have not played Lindsey Wilson in head coach David Dew's four-year tenure.

Taylor (38-16) received an at-large bid and received votes in the most-recent Coaches' Top 25. The Trojans finished as runners up in the Crossroads League regular season with a 27-7 mark in conference play.

Four Taylor players received All-Crossroads League recognition, including Alex Lovelace, who was tied for third in the league with a .423 batting average.

As a team, the Trojans own a .510 slugging percentage - the eighth-best mark in the nation - and their 47 home runs are the most among the four teams in the Lindsey Wilson Bracket. Thirteen Taylor batters have at least one home run this season and 10 have multiple homers, led by Courtney Moriarty's 10.

In the circle, Taylor owns a 3.05 ERA and a .265 opponent batting average. Hannah Robbins leads the pitching staff with 17 wins and a 2.26 ERA. Moriarty is a 12-game winner for the Trojans and holds a 2.86 ERA.

Taylor is making its second appearance in the Opening Round after going 1-2 in 2014.

Lindsey Wilson is 7-0 against Taylor since 2009. The Blue Raiders swept a home doubleheader against the Trojans earlier this year, 7-2 and 3-1. LWC hit three home runs over the two games - including a grand slam by Bailey Mize - and received complete-game outings from Bryan and Lauren Lett.

Madonna (30-14) received an automatic bid to the Opening Round by virtue of being runner-up in the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Tournament. The Crusaders lost the WHAC Championship Final 3-2 to Davenport (MI) in eight innings.

The Crusaders finished in a three-way tie atop the WHAC regular season standings and saw four members named to the All-Conference First Team, including conference Pitcher of the Year Erin Combs.

Combs posted a conference-best 1.51 ERA and racked up 21 wins in 29 starts. In 153-1/3 innings of work, the senior struck out 97 while walking only 15.

Anchored by Combs, Madonna's pitching staff owns a 2.20 ERA and limits opponents to a .248 batting average.

As a team, the Crusaders bat .321 and are led by Morgan Kaiser's .416 average. Madonna has only 11 home runs this year, and no batter has more than two homers.

The Crusaders are making their second appearance in the Opening Round, last doing so in 2015. Madonna knocked of host Concordia (Calif.) and were three outs from advancing to the NAIA World Series before conceding a walk-off grand slam to Dickinson State (N.D.) in the if-necessary championship game.

The Blue Raiders are 4-3 against Madonna since 2008. The two last met on March 14, 2015, when then-No. 4-ranked LWC swept the Crusaders 8-1 and 14-5.

This story was posted on 2017-05-15 05:52:38
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