The softball team makes its second trip to nationals in program history after winning the Red River Athletic Conference (RRAC) regular-season title. The Saints finished with a top overall record of 23-5 in the conference to receive an automatic bid. The ninth annual National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Opening Round Softball bracket was announced on May 10.
OLLU first qualified for nationals in 2014 after capturing the RRAC regular-season (18-2) and tournament titles. The Saints played Oklahoma Baptist University and Ottawa University in the opening round of nationals and lost both games finishing the season with an overall 39-12-1 record.
The Opening Round will take place May 16-18 in Gulf Shores, Ala., at the Gulf Shores Athletic Complex and hosted by the University of Mobile. The No. 3 seed Saints (44-11) are set to face No. 2 seed College of Coastal Georgia (38-12) from Brunswick, Ga., at 11 a.m. on May 16 for the first game of the Opening Round in the Gulf Shores Bracket. The Mariners are making their second appearance in the NAIA Opening Round. They made their first trip last season and failed to make the NAIA World Series after going 2-2 in their bracket.
No. 1 seed Mobile will face No. 4-seed Valley City State University on May 16 at 1 p.m. for the second game. On Tuesday, May 17, the winner of game one will play the winner of game two at 11 a.m. for the third game of the bracket. The loser of game one will play the loser of game two at 1 p.m. for the fourth game. Finally, the loser of game three will play the winner of game four at 3 p.m. for the fifth game On Wednesday, the winner of game three will play the winner of game five for the championship game at 11 a.m. A seventh game will be played if necessary 30 minutes after the sixth game.
OLLU finished as the No. 17-ranked team in the NAIA Coaches’ Top 25 Final Poll. Coastal Georgia was voted in the 16th position. Mobile is the No. 1 team in the poll and Valley City State is unranked.
The winner of the Gulf Shores Bracket will advance to the NAIA World Series that will take place at the South Commons Softball Complex in Columbus, Ga., from May 26-June 1.
Head Coach Bruce Lenington, awarded RRAC Coach of the Year, commented, “No. 16-ranked Coastal Georgia is a team that has enjoyed much success this year. It will take one of our most complete games to beat them.”
This year’s Opening Round field consists of 33 automatic qualifiers – given to conference regular-season champions, tournament champions or tournament runners-up – and seven at-large teams. Conferences with 10-or-more members receive two automatic qualifiers, while leagues with less than 10 get one. At-large teams were determined by the NAIA Softball National Selection Committee (NSC). The NSC consists of one representative from each geographic area, a representative from the National Administrative Council, a member of the NAIA-Softball Coaches Association Executive Committee and three at-large members. The committee evaluated teams throughout the year on various criteria.
OLLU claimed the RRAC regular season title with a 23-5 conference mark. The Saints owned the nation’s second-largest winning streak from March 18-April 23. OLLU held opponents scoreless 13 times during the 24-game run and had a total of 17 shutouts – a tie for the most shutouts in program history. Cassandra Valdez (JR/Brownsville, Texas) was awarded RRAC Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year. Rebecca Duran (SR/Austin, Texas) earned Newcomer of the Year while Madison Nunn (SR/Cibolo, Texas) garnered Defensive Player of the Year. Valdez leads the Saints with a 1.58 ERA and averages 8.54 strikeouts per seven innings. Duran has a team-leading 10 sacrifice hits and Nunn committed only two fielding errors in 50 games played.
Kayla Dreese (SR/San Antonio, Texas) leads OLLU with a .441 batting average. Ariel Montgomery (SR/Castroville, Texas) tops the charts with 49 RBIs and Caitlin Terrazas (SR/Atascosa, Texas) has 14 doubles. The Saints rank fourth in the league with 58 home runs, 175 extra base hits and 787 total bases. They also have 366 runs scored, which is top-10 in the league.
The NAIA’s No. 16-ranked Mariners are 19th in the NAIA with 92 doubles. Hayley Dickerson leads the team with a 2.06 ERA. Sarah Thinger has a team-leading .396 batting average and 29 walks. The Mariners were eliminated from The Sun Conference (TSC) postseason tournament after falling in the consolation bracket and losing twice overall. Coastal Georgia won 13 straight games from Feb. 20-March 22.
Opening Round Notes
- Overall, there are 23 repeat qualifiers from the 2021 opening round, including six teams that won opening round titles last season – College of Idaho, Madonna, Olivet Nazarene, Oregon Tech, Ottawa and Southern Oregon.
- Indiana Wesleyan is the lone team in the field with 50 or more wins at 50-8 overall. Freed-Hardeman has the next highest win total at 48-3.
- Lindsey Wilson and Oklahoma City are back in the field for the ninth time, which leads the field. These two clubs are the only NAIA teams to have participated in every event since the format was established in 2013.
- There are six newcomers to the opening round in this year’s field in Embry-Riddle, Michigan-Dearborn, Mount Marty, Saint Mary of the Woods, Texas A&M Texarkana and William Jessup.
- Oklahoma City has the honor of the most opening-round championships with six. Twenty teams in the 2022 field have at least one opening round championship to their credit.
- The Cascade Collegiate Conference leads all leagues with four teams in the 2022 field. The Crossroads League, Mid-South Conference and The Sun Conference followed with three each.
- All-Time Opening Round Record by Seed
- No. 1-Seed: 190-75 (.712)
- No. 2 seed: 148-132 (.529)
- No. 3 seed: 97-143 (.404)
- No. 4 seed: 57-146 (.281)
- All-Time Opening Round Host Records
- 2013 Hosts: 24-12 (.667)
- 2014 Hosts: 27-7 (.794)
- 2015 Hosts: 27-9 (.750)
- 2016 Hosts: 22-11 (.667)
- 2017 Hosts: 18-13 (.581)
- 2018 Hosts: 16-8 (.667)
- 2019 Hosts: 20-6 (.762)
- 2020 Hosts: 11-16 (.407)
- TOTAL: 165-82 (.668)
2022 NAIA Opening Round Qualifiers
|Institution||Qualifying Method||2022 Record||Last Time||Appearances||Opening Round Record||OR Titles|
|Bryan (Tenn.)||Appalachian Regular Season Champion||30-16||2014||2||2-1||0|
|Central Methodist (Mo.)||Heart Regular Season/Tournament Champion||40-5||2021||7||14-10||1|
|College of Idaho||Cascade Tournament Runner-Up||41-15||2021||4||8-5||1|
|Columbia (Mo.)||AMC Regular Season/Tournament Champion||33-10||2021||7||10-8||1|
|Cottey (Mo.)||Continental Tournament Runner-Up||30-15||2021||2||0-2||0|
|Embry-Riddle (Ariz.)||Cal Pac Tournament Champion||40-3||N/A||1||0-0||0|
|Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.)||Mid-South Tournament Champion||48-3||2021||5||7-2||0|
|Friends (Kan.)||KCAC Tournament Champion||30-19||2019||5||1-8||0|
|Georgia Gwinnett||Continental Tournament Champion||35-18||2021||7||13-9||1|
|Grand View (Iowa)||Heart Regular Season Runner-Up||42-9||2021||8||7-12||0|
|Indiana Wesleyan||Crossroads Regular Season/Tournament Champion||50-8||2021||7||10-9||1|
|Lindsey Wilson (Ky.)||Mid-South Tournament Runner-Up||38-15||2021||9||15-11||3|
|Madonna (Mich.)||WHAC Regular Season Champion||31-7||2021||6||10-9||0|
|Michigan-Dearborn||WHAC Tournament Champion||30-11||N/A||1||0-0||0|
|Midland (Neb.)||GPAC Regular Season Champion||36-10||2021||4||4-6||0|
|Mobile (Ala.)||SSAC Tournament Champion||46-2||2019||5||12-3||2|
|Mount Marty (S.D.)||GPAC Tournament Champion||32-14||N/A||1||0-0||0|
|Oklahoma City||Sooner Tournament Champion||47-6||2021||9||22-5||6|
|Olivet Nazarene (Ill.)||Chicagoland Tournament Runner-Up||33-13-1||2021||7||12-8||1|
|Oregon Tech||Cascade Regular Season/Tournament Champion||46-10||2021||8||19-7||3|
|Ottawa (Kan.)||KCAC Regular Season Champion||35-13-1||2021||4||6-2||2|
|Our Lady of the Lake (Texas)||Red River Top Overall Record||44-11||2014||2||0-2||0|
|Rio Grande (Ohio)||River States Regular Season Champion||39-13||2021||7||8-12||0|
|Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (Ind.)||River States Tournament Champion||29-12||N/A||1||0-0||0|
|Saint Xavier (Ill.)||Chicagoland Regular Season/Tournament Champion||36-6||2021||8||16-12||2|
|Science & Arts (Okla.)||At-Large||47-8||2021||6||11-7||2|
|Southeastern (Fla.)||The Sun Regular Season Champion||46-10||2018||5||6-6||1|
|Taylor (Ind.)||Crossroads Tournament Runner-Up||26-27||2019||4||3-6||0|
|Tennessee Wesleyan||Appalachian Tournament Champion||34-7||2015||2||0-2||0|
|Texas A&M Texarkana||Red River Tournament Champion||42-12||N/A||1||0-0||0|
|Valley City State (N.D.)||North Star Tournament Champion||33-16||2019||2||3-0||1|
|Webber International (Fla.)||The Sun Tournament Champion||39-21||2016||2||3-0||1|
|William Carey (Miss.)||At-Large||45-9||2021||8||12-10||2|
|William Jessup (Calif.)||GSAC Tournament Champion||36-13||N/A||1||0-0||0|
|William Woods (Mo.)||AMC Tournament Runner-Up||23-23||2019||4||1-6||0|
For more information on the 2022 Softball NAIA Opening Round, CLICK HERE.