COLUMBUS, Ohio – Two weeks removed from their first Great Midwest Athletic Conference Softball Tournament Championship, the Ohio Dominican softball team gathered Sunday evening to watch the NCAA Division II Selection Show inside of the Community Room on the campus of Ohio Dominican University.
Head coach Marcella Vanlandingham and her squad watched as it was revealed that the NCAA selection committee had awarded the Black and Gold a sixth seed in the Midwest Regional tournament, setting up a date with the three-seeded Northwood University on Wednesday, May 19 at 1:30 PM in Allendale, Michigan, the home of Grand Valley State University.
They would join a bracket that features the one-seed and host Grand Valley, the two-seed University of Indianapolis, the aforementioned third-seed Northwood University, the fourth seed Trevecca Nazarene University, and the fifth seed Hillsdale College.
The regional tournament will begin Wednesday, May 19, and run through Saturday, May 22 with games taking place at 11 AM, 1:30 PM, and 4:00 PM each day. The championship will be contested on Saturday with first pitch scheduled for 11 AM.
HOW THEY GOT HERE
The Panthers return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2014 season, and the second time in the Division II era. During the 2014 campaign, the Black and Gold finished the season going 30-29 overall and 21-5 in conference play en route to claiming its first at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament.
This time the story is much different as ODU come into this year's tournament with a record of 28-16 overall and 13-9 in conference play, earning an automatic qualifying spot due to their victory against Trevecca Nazarene in the G-MAC championship game on May 8 in Findlay, Ohio.
The Black and Gold did not have an easy journey this season. The Panthers are hardened and battle-tested. ODU faced off against four ranked teams during the 2021 campaign, with their signature win being a hard-fought victory over No.5 ranked University of Indianapolis on April 28th at Panther Field.
These aren't unfamiliar opponents as the Panthers have squared off with each team in the bracket, with the exception of Northwood which was postponed due to inclement weather earlier this spring.
Furthermore, Ohio Dominican has managed to earn a win against three teams in the regional bracket (Hillsdale, Trevecca, and Indianapolis).
The Panthers come into the tournament riding the second-longest winning streak of the season at five games. The Black and Gold previously enjoyed a season-high-winning streak of eight games that ran from March 6 until March 20.
PRIDE OF THE PANTHERS
The Panthers will once again look to junior pitcher Sydney Long (Ashland, Ohio) to deliver quality innings in the circle. The third-year hurler finished the regular season with a record of 17-9 with a career-low ERA of 2.07 and 139 strikeouts.
ODU will also lean on senior Carson Hackerd (Frankfort, Indiana) who paces the Panthers with a batting average of .361 and a slugging percentage of .528 this season. She also delivered numerous clutch hits during the G-MAC tournament that proved critical to delivering the Panthers their first tournament championship.
ONES TO WATCH
A pair of freshmen look to factor into the tournament run as Baylee Adams (Cardington, Ohio) and Alexis Stevens (Marion, Ohio) are leaders for the Black and Gold in hitting. The first-year players have combined for 22 extra-base hits. They also have stolen a combined 11 bases and are key in helping ODU manufacture runs.
Senior Kristen Bales (Pickerington, Ohio) will utilize her speed on the basepaths and look to set up the Black and Gold as she led the team in triples with five for the season. Bales likely won't have to wait on base long as sophomore Braxton Downs (Prospect, Kentucky) hopes to add to her 12 home runs this season and factor big into ODU's offensive production.
Ohio Dominican begins its tournament run on Wednesday, May 19 with first pitch scheduled for 1:30 PM.
Contact: Ralph Schudel