SEWARD, Neb. – Following a six-hour bus ride on Sunday, the Concordia University softball team will prep for its showdown with the NAIA’s No. 1-ranked team. The Bulldogs and national tournament opening round host Oklahoma City (52-4) will go head-to-head at 7 p.m. CT from Ann Lacey Stadium in Oklahoma City, Okla., on Monday. Oklahoma City is one of 10 opening round sites.
Concordia will also play again at either 12 p.m. or 3 p.m. Tuesday in the double-elimination bracket. No. 17 Concordia University (Ore.) (40-16) and Grand View University (Iowa) (33-11) were also assigned to the Oklahoma City Bracket.
With each of the other three teams in the pool either nationally-ranked or receiving votes in the final coaches’ poll, head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad enters the tournament as a decided underdog in its second-straight appearance on the national stage.
“It’s very exciting. Whoever you play this time of year is going to be a good team and a quality opponent,” LaVelle said. “Obviously Oklahoma City being ranked No. 1 for the last eight weeks in a row is a tough draw, but everything has been tough this year. We’ll welcome the challenge and go down there, play loose and see what we can do. We’ll see how we stack up. I don’t think we’ll be nervous.”
Oklahoma City is coached by NAIA Hall of Famer Phil McSpadden, who has guided the Stars to more than 1,400 wins and eight national championships in his 29 seasons leading the program. McSpadden’s 2015 squad is a powerful one that averages 9.1 runs (second in the NAIA) and is hitting .391. Oklahoma City won the Sooner Athletic Conference championship with a league record of 25-1.
On the other hand, LaVelle’s squad is hitting its stride after a regular season that fell short of expectations. The Bulldogs blazed through the GPAC tournament by winning five of six games, including two over Morningside in the conference championship series. Concordia is led by junior slugger Julia Tyree (.415 BA, first team all-conference) and freshman pitcher Michaela Woodward (second team all-conference).
Seven returning Bulldogs saw action in both of last season’s opening round national tournament games played in Shawnee, Okla. Concordia fell by scores of 4-3 to host and sixth-ranked St. Gregory’s University and 3-1 to Bellevue University. Under a different format, the Bulldogs advanced to NAIA regional tournaments six-straight years from 2003 to 2008.
At 28-21, Concordia has posted the seventh-highest single-season win total in program history. Five Bulldog softball teams have reached the 30-win plateau with the 2005 team (36-19) being the current record holder for victories in a season.
The opening round hosts include: Auburn University (Ala.), Central Methodist (Mo.), Concordia (Calif.), Lindsey Wilson (Ky.), LSU Alexandria (La.), Oklahoma City, Oregon Tech, St. Gregory's (Okla.), USC Beaufort (S.C.) and William Carey (Miss.). Three of these institutions, Central Methodist, LSU Alexandria and Oregon Tech, are playing as hosts for the first time since the format began in 2013.
The 40-team field is comprised of 31 automatic qualifiers, four Opening Round host berths and five at-large berths. The 19 conferences, including the Association of Independent Institutions (A.I.I.), received one berth per six teams and two berths per ten teams. In addition, two unaffiliated groups receive two berths each.
The 10 Opening Round champions will punch their ticket for the 35th annual NAIA Softball World Series in Sioux City, Iowa, on the Morningside College campus from May 22 - 28. Those programs will participate in a double-elimination format on one championship field. Last year, Auburn Montgomery defeated William Carey, 10-6, to record its first-ever softball championship.
For more information on the 2015 NAIA Softball National Championship, click here.
NAIA Championship Opening Round
At Oklahoma City University
Ann Lacy Stadium
Monday, May 11
Game 1: No. 2 Concordia (Ore.) (40-16) vs. No. 3 Grand View (Iowa) (33-11), 4 p.m.
Game 2: No. 1 Oklahoma City (52-4) vs. No. 4 Concordia (Neb.) (28-21), 7 p.m.
Tuesday, May 12
Game 3: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 12 p.m.
Game 4: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2, 3 p.m.
Game 5: Winner Game 4 vs. Loser Game 3, 6 p.m.
Wednesday, May 13
Game 6: Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 5, 12 p.m.
Game 7: If Necessary, 3 p.m.
*Tickets will be available on site one hour prior to the start of the first game
Single-Session Adult: $10.00
Single-Session Student (Ages 18 and under): $7.00
Follow the tournament live
Live streaming video of each game in the tournament will be provided at a rate of $8.95 per day with a $19.95 tournament pass. Go to www.ocusports.com for information.
OCU athletic web site: http://www.ocusports.com
2015 NAIA Championship Opening Round Oklahoma City Bracket: http://bit.ly/1GUNJle
Live video: http://bit.ly/1zI80eb
OCU visitors guide: http://bit.ly/12Cv47g