INDIANOLA, Iowa – A roller-coaster season for the Simpson softball team will culminate with a trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Simpson (29-10) earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Division III Softball Championship and will travel to Bloomington, Ill. for a four-team regional hosted by Illinois Wesleyan. The No. 2 seed Storm will take on No. 3 seed Anderson (30-9) to open play Friday, May 8 at 1 p.m.
The double-elimination regional begins May 8 and runs through May 10. Host Illinois Wesleyan (36-8) faces Alma (25-15) in the other first-round game at 3:30 p.m.
The winner of the Bloomington regional advances to the Super Regional to face the winner of the four-team Lake Forest Regional. Joining host Lake Forest are North Central (Ill.), Hope and Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Four teams will compete at 14 regional sites and three teams will compete at two regional sites. The team advancing from each regional will compete in the super regional round May 15 and 16. The finals, hosted by the Old Dominion Athletic Conference and the City of Salem, will be held May 21-26 at Moyer Sports Complex in Salem, Virginia. All rounds will use a double-elimination format.
About the Storm
Ranked as high as No. 10 in the NFCA Coaches Poll during the season, the Storm started the season 16-0 before losing to then-sixth-ranked Illinois Wesleyan at the Rebel Spring Games. After a 1-5 start to the Iowa Conference schedule, the Storm responded by winning six games in a row to reach a No. 2 ranking in the Midwest Region. The Storm split with Wartburg to close the regular season, finishing third in the ultra-competitive Iowa Conference. The No. 3 seed in the Iowa Conference Tournament, the Storm were knocked out with a 7-3 loss to No. 6 seed Dubuque in the first round.
The hard-hitting, well-balanced Simpson lineup set a school record for home runs, smacking 41 on the year, good for 10th in the nation with 1.08 long balls per game. Junior catcher Tori Haag leads the team in batting average (.403), home runs (10) and RBIs (36). Simpson's lineup features seven player hitting over .300, including freshman outfielder Brianna Chaplin (.395), junior first baseman Rachel Guessford (.345), junior outfielder Grace Hall (.333), senior second baseman Ashley Prettyman (.330), senior outfielder Stacie Brown (.309), and senior third baseman Hailey Jensen (.306).
Junior transfer Riley Fisher anchors the pitching staff, going 13-5 with a 2.69 ERA in her first season with the Storm. Although hampered by injury late in the season, junior Abbie VanVleet went 10-4 with a team-best 2.40 ERA. Freshman Maggie Long (2-0, 1.31 ERA) and junior Kaytlyn Ernst (4-1, 4.12 ERA) could also see time this weekend.
Simpson in the NCAA Championship
Simpson is making its 15th appearance in the Division III Championship and ninth under 20th-year head coach, Henry Christowski ... the Storm won titles with Christowski at the helm in 1997 and 1999, finishing third in 1996 and 1998 ... Simpson is 38-26 all-time in the postseason ... this season marks the Storm's first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2010 when they received an at-large bid after winning the IIAC Regular Season Title.
A Look at the Bloomington Regional
No. 1 Illinois Wesleyan: The Titans went 36-8 overall and earned an automatic bid by winning the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin Tournament ... Illinois Wesleyan is making its fourth straight trip to the NCAA Tournament and 14th overall.
No. 3 Anderson: The Ravens went 30-9 and won the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference regular season and tournament titles ... Anderson went a perfect 3-0 at the HCAC Tournament, beating Hanover 9-2 in the championship game.
No. 4 Alma: Winners in 15 of their last 18 contests, the Scots went 25-15 and earned an at-large berth in the tournament ... Alma finished tied for second in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association, losing to Trine 8-7 in 8 innings in the MIAA Championship game.
Simpson against the Bloomington Regional
- vs. Anderson (Ind): 6-0
- vs. Illinois Wesleyan: 5-3
- vs. Alma: 0-1
Simpson has met Illinois Wesleyan three times in the NCAA Tournament, falling to the Titans 2-0 in an elimination game in 2010 ... Simpson has never lost to Anderson, last meeting the Ravens in 2010, a 3-2 win in Florida ... the only meeting with Alma was a 5-3, 8-inning loss in the 2001 regular season.