INDIANOLA, Iowa - For the second year in a row, the Simpson softball team advances to NCAA postseason play.
The Storm (30-9) earned an at-large bid to the regional round of the 2016 NCAA Division III Championship and will travel to Decorah, Iowa for a four-team, double-elimination regional hosted by Luther. The third-seeded Storm will face second-seeded St. Catherine (31-9) on Friday, May 13 at 1 p.m. Top-seeded Luther (36-2) faces fourth-seeded Wisconsin-Superior (27-13) in the other first-round game.
The winner of the Decorah Regional will advance to play the winner of the Bloomington (Ill.) Regional, hosted by top-seeded Illinois Wesleyan (30-10). DePauw (29-16), Washington-St. Louis (34-10) and Hanover (18-18) make up the remainder of the region.
The regional round will be held May 13-15. 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 20 and 21. The finals, hosted by the Old Dominion Athletic Conference and the City of Salem, will be held May 26-31 at Moyer Sports Complex in Salem, Virginia. All rounds will use a double-elimination format.
|Friday||1 p.m.||#2 St. Catherine vs. #3 Simpson (game 1)|
|3:30 p.m.||#1 Luther vs. #4 Wis.-Superior (game 2)|
|Saturday||11 a.m.||Winner game 1 vs. Winner game 2 (game 3)|
|1:30 p.m.||Loser game 1 vs. Loser game 2 (game 4)|
|4 p.m.||Winner game 4 vs. Loser game 3 (game 5)|
|Sunday||Noon||Winner game 3 vs. Winner game 5 (game 6)|
|2:30 p.m.||Winner game 6 vs. Loser game 6 (if necessary)|
About the Storm
Simpson earned one of 19 at-large bids into the field of 62 teams, qualifying for the postseason for the second year in a row. Simpson is making its 16th appearance in the NCAA Tournament and first - and only - under interim head coach Kyle Owens. The Storm finished second in the IIAC regular season standings and lost to league champion Luther in the IIAC Tournament Championship game, 8-6.
Simpson features one of the top power-hitting lineups in the nation with 39 home runs. The duo of Rachel Guessford and Tori Haag did most of the damage, combining for 22 home runs and 79 RBIs. A second team all-conference first baseman, Guessford led the IIAC in home runs (12) and RBIs (44). A hard-hitting senior catcher, Haag led the team with a .398 batting average, hitting 14 doubles and 10 long balls while driving in 35. Another second team all-IIAC pick, outfielder Brianna Chaplin hit .379 with six home runs.
Multi-talented senior Riley Fisher anchors the pitching staff. The first team all-IIAC utility player went 15-2 with a 2.29 ERA and 125 strikeouts. At the plate she hit .372, including a team-best .433 during IIAC play. Another senior, Abbie VanVleet posted a 13-4 record with a 2.64 ERA and just 16 walks.
A look at the Decorah Regional
No. 1 Luther: The Norse went 36-2, winning the Iowa Conference regular and postseason crowns to earn the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Led by IIAC Pitcher of the Year Amanda Witzlib and IIAC Player of the Year Miranda McCay, Luther was ranked as high as No. 2 in the NFCA Coaches' Poll. Witzlib went 15-1 with a 1.10 ERA while McCay hit .398 with 37 RBIs. Luther led the league in both batting average (.377) and ERA (1.32).
No. 2 St. Catherine: Earning an at-large bid out of the Minnesota Conference, the Wildcats finished second in the MIAC Tournament, losing to St. Thomas in the championship game. A stout pitching staff features two hurlers with more than 120 strikeouts: sophomores Kirsta Flugstad and Megan Lindenfelser. Flugstad is 17-3 with a 1.47 ERA while Lindenfelser is 12-5 with a 1.74 ERA. Senior shortstop Robyn Rohr hit .481 with 16 doubles and 39 RBIs, leading the MIAC in batting average, doubles, total bases and on-base percentage.
No. 4 Wis.-Superior: The Yellowjackets went 27-13, earning an automatic bid from the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference. The No. 3 seed in the conference tournament, Superior came from two down to upset top-seeded St. Scholastica 4-3 in the UMAC Championship game. First team all-UMAC outfielder Ciarra Taipale leads the Yellowjackets at the plate, hitting .371 with eight home runs and 45 RBIs. Sarah Hendrickson, another first team pick, went 20-7 with a 2.01 ERA in the circle.