GULF SHORES, Ala. – Kelsey Connolly tagged a three-run homer as No. 12 Thomas University defeated the University of Houston-Victoria, 8-3, in the NAIA Softball National Championship Opening Round on Monday at the Gulf Shores Sportsplex.
Connolly was a triple shy of hitting for the cycle as she had a single, double and homer in the game, collecting four RBI and scoring a pair of runs.
Second-seeded Thomas faces top seed and host No. 9 Mobile (Ala.) Tuesday at 11 a.m. CST. The winner will play Wednesday at 11 a.m., and the loser will play at 3 p.m. Tuesday.
Thomas scored three runs in the first, four in the second and one in the third to take the early 8-0 lead. UHV plated one in the fourth and a pair in the fifth in TU's 8-3 win.
TU had four pitchers take the mound in the opening game. Lauren West earned the victory, allowing just two hits from 10 batters in 2.0 innings. Rebecca Boesen allowed one run and one hit and Margarita Sena gave up two runs from four hits, each in 2.0 innings pitched. Katie Lopes finished the game, facing a pair of batters.
With one out in the top of the first, Stoltz singled to right field then Gaby Mora had a base hit to left in time for Connolly to hit an RBI double down the left field line. With two outs, Michael Cooper and Diaz hit consecutive singles to plate two more TU runs.
Taisa Kirindongo hit a one-out single down the left field line in the second, then advanced on a sac by Camina. Stoltz hit an RBI single to center to give TU the 4-0 lead. Mora drew a walk, then Connolly cleared the bases with a three-run shot over the fence.
In the third inning, Diaz drew a one-out walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Izzy Ekstam reached on a fielding error, and Diaz scored Thomas' final run of the game.
UHV scored one run from one hit and two TU errors in the bottom of the fourth, then lined into a double play to end the inning.
Then in the fifth, UHV connected on three hits and the Night Hawks had a fielding error to allow one more run.
Schedule for Gulf Shores Bracket
Tuesday, May 15
Game 3 - 11 a.m. CST – Thomas (Ga.) vs. Mobile (Ala.)
Game 4 - 1 p.m. CST – Houston-Victoria (Texas) vs. Brenau (Ga.)
Game 5 - 3 p.m. CST - Game 3 Loser vs. Game 4 Winner
Wednesday, May 16
Game 6 - 11 a.m. CST - Game 3 Winner vs. Game 5 Winner
Game 7 - 1 p.m. CST - If Necessary
Thomas won both the Sun Conference Regular Season and Tournament Championships this season. Coach Bill Wilson was TSC Coach of the Year and Lauren West was the Pitcher of the Year. Five Night Hawks were named first team all-conference: Kelsey Connolly, A.J. Weiss, Lauren West, Gaby Mora and Kait Stoltz, while Victoria Camina and Izzy Ekstamwere on the honorable mention list.
Three Night Hawks – Kelsey Connolly, Corryne Diaz and Lauren West - were named to the Sun Conference All-Tournament Team, and Kelsey Connolly, Michael Cooper, Katie Lopes, Gaby Mora and A.J. Weiss were on the all-academic team.
About the NAIA Tournament
The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) announced the 40-team field and pairings for the 2018 NAIA Softball National Championship Opening Round on Tuesday, May 8. The sixth annual event will take place from May 14 - 16 at nine different locations. The format is a double-elimination, four-team tournament. For more information on the host sites, click here.
The 40-team field is comprised of 30 automatic qualifiers and 10 at-large berths. The 19 conferences receive one berth per six teams and two berths per ten teams. At-large teams were determined using the final regular-season Coaches' Top 25 Poll released earlier today, which can be accessed here.
The champions from each of the 10 opening round tournaments advance to the 38th annual NAIA Softball World Series in Clermont, Fla., from May 25 – 31. These programs will participate in a double-elimination national championship at the Legends Way Ball Fields. Last year, Oklahoma City won its NAIA-record 10th championship – and second in-a-row – after a 4-1 victory over Corban (Ore.) on June 1.
For complete story and list of qualifiers, CLICK HERE