ANGOLA, Ind.-- The Trine softball team will be seeking its fourth-straight MIAA Tournament title beginning with first round play tomorrow.
The Thunder will face Hope in the first round of the MIAA Tournament Thursday, May 5 at 11 a.m. Trine clinched a share of its fifth-straight MIAA regular-season title with a victory over Saint Mary's Monday evening. The Thunder enter the tournament as the No. 2 seed, having earned a 14-2 record in league action this year. Trine has won the last three MIAA Tournament titles. The winner of the tournament receives the conference's automatic-qualifying bid to the NCAA Regionals, which Trine has appeared in each of the last eight years.
The Thunder once again boasted the top offensive lineup in the MIAA, leading the league in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and runs per game during the regular season. Trine's .347 team batting average entering the week ranked 30th in the nation.
Kaylee Fox (Vermilion, Ohio / Edison) carries an 11-game hitting streak into the MIAA Tournament. The sophomore led the MIAA with six home runs during conference play and is batting .405 over the course of her hitting streak. Kendra Marshall (Leesburg, Ind. / Warsaw) led the MIAA in RBIs in conference play, knocking in 19 runs.
Rachell Noble (Indianapolis, Ind. / Decatur Central) has gotten on base at a .565 clip, a mark that ranked 15th in the nation entering the week. Noble is batting .467 over the course of a nine-game hitting streak. Kaitlyn Clark (Mount Juliet, Tenn. / Wilson Central), Trine's all-time leader in RBIs gives the Thunder another power option in the batting order.
Justine Robles (Long Beach, Calif. / Lakewood) and Bre Cooper (Beech Grove, Ind. / Beech Grove) have led the Thunder in the circle this season. Robles' four saves this year rank ninth in the nation. She owns a 12-6 record with a 1.55 ERA and 118 strikeouts in 122 innings pitched. Cooper has recorded a 7-0 record to go along with a 1.48 ERA. The senior has not lost a decision in her collegiate career.
A brief look at each team in the rest of the tournament field can be found below.
The No. 3 seed and first round opponent of the Thunder is the only conference team to beat Trine twice in regular-season play over the last five years. The Flying Dutch are ranked seventh in the NCAA Division III Central Region rankings. Hope concluded the regular season 22-16 overall and 11-5 in conference play.
Trine and Hope split its doubleheader at Trine University on Apr. 5. Robles led the Thunder to a 1-0 victory in game one, before the Dutch took game two in extra-innings by a 4-3 final.
Hope led the MIAA in stolen bases this season. Autumn Anderson's 20 steals led the conference. Returning All-MIAA performer Sierra Mutschler ranks 24th in the nation in doubles.
The Scots earned the top seed after splitting the league title with Trine by virtue of having swept three-seed Hope. Alma has been nationally ranked the entire season and tops the NCAA Division III Central Region rankings. The Scots are 29-7 overall.
The Thunder and Alma split its doubleheader last week. The Scots took game one 4-3 in a marathon 11-inning affair, while Trine rallied to take game two 7-1.
Alma's pitching staff ranks fifth in the nation with a 1.31 ERA. Morgan Stratton leads the country with a 0.60 ERA and has allowed 3.62 hits per seven innings- the seventh-lowest rate in the nation. The Scots also rank sixth in the nation with a .970 fielding percentage.
The Belles tied for fourth in the conference, but won the tiebreaker for seeding with Calvin due to having beaten Alma once. Saint Mary's previously appeared in the Central Region rankings before dropping out of the latest poll. The Belles own a 19-16 overall record.
Trine swept Saint Mary's in the final series of the MIAA season. The Thunder took game one 12-7 behind the strength of a 10-run sixth inning and followed that up with a 4-2 victory in game two.
SMC is led by MIAA batting champion Cassie Young, whose .500 batting average ranks 20th in the nation. Young ranks as the 20th-toughest player to strike out in the country. Makenzie Duncan's eight triples are the second-most in Division III.
The winner of Thursday's first round games will square off Thursday evening at 5:30 p.m. The losers will match up in an elimination game at 3:30 p.m.
Following is the schedule for the 2016 MIAA Softball Tournament:
Thursday, May 5
Game 1 - No. 2 Trine vs. No. 3 Hope - 11:00 a.m.
Game 2 - No. 1 Alma vs. No. 4 Saint Mary's - 1:00 p.m.
Game 3 - Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser - 3:30 p.m.
Game 4 - Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner - 5:30 p.m.
Friday, May 6
Game 5 - Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 loser - Noon
Game 6 - Game 4 winner vs. Game 5 winner - 2:00 p.m.
Game 7 (if necessary) - Game 6 winner vs. Game 6 loser - 4:30 p.m.