For the eighth-consecutive year, the Big Red will represent one of four teams in the annual North Coast Athletic Conference Softball Championship Tournament.
Allegheny will serve as the host site for the third time in the 12-year history of the NCAC Tournament. Wooster, conference newcomer DePauw, and DU round out the four-team field in the double elimination tournament set to begin on Friday, May 4 and continue through Saturday, May 5.
Denison earned the fourth seed after splitting a doubleheader against Hiram on Senior Day in Granville last Sunday. With one on and two outs in the nightcap, senior Kait Fiore kept Denison's tournament hopes alive with a double down the left field line that hit the top of the wall. The extra-base hit moved first-year Emily Lipsitz, the game-winning run, to third base. After watching the first pitch of her at bat carry high out of the strike zone, senior Hannah Price timed up the 1-0 delivery and sent a shot into left center that scored Lipsitz and cleared the Denison bench. DU finished the season with a 9-7 NCAC mark.
The Big Red offense is led by Price, rookie Julie Rooney, sophomores Meghan Edwards and Rachel Laughlin, and Fiore, who are all hitting .300 or better on the year. Price, the reigning NCAC Hitter of the Week, leads the team in seven offensive categories including batting average (.366), hits (48), RBIs (23), runs scored (28) and slugging percentage (.504). Rooney is hitting .316 on the year with 11 doubles, while Edwards has a .309 average with 22 run scored. Both Laughlin and Fiore are .300 at the dish heading into postseason play and junior Jess Robertson is tied for the team lead in RBIs with 23 and is batting .319 in conference play with a team-high four home runs against NCAC foes. Sophomore Heather Larsen has also been clutch in conference play, going 5-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
The DU pitching staff features a pair of NCAC Pitcher of the Week recipients in Becca Dyer and Kelsey Hager. In nine appearances this year, Dyer is 5-3 with 52 strikeouts and a 2.13 ERA. She is holding opposing hitters to a .179 average in 49.1 innings. Hager is 10-9 on the year with 106 strikeouts and a 2.96 ERA in 22 appearances. Last week, she went 3-0 with one save in four appearances while posting a 1.02 ERA with two complete game shutouts.
Allegheny earned the top seed after posting a 12-4 conference record. First-year pitcher Caitlin Nealer has been the talk of the town in Meadville this season. The reigning NCAC Pitcher of the Week is 22-4 with a 0.94 ERA and 170 Ks in 170.2 innings pitched. The Gator offense is led by Stephanie Fort and Halea Hayden, who are both hitting over .400 on the year.
The College of Wooster received the No. 2 seed after going 11-5 in NCAC action. The Scots are making their fourth appearances in the tournament, and their first since 2005. Demi Hart ranks second in the league with a .457 batting average. She also has 13 doubles, 19 RBIs and 22 runs scored this season. Inside the circle, Jenn Horton (14-6) carries a 1.89 ERA with four shutouts and 85 strikeouts.
DePauw will make its first appearance in the NCAC Tournament in its inaugural year in the conference. The Tigers finished the regular season with a 10-6 record in league play en route to securing the third seed. Emily Dieckmann leads the pitching staff with a 1.79 ERA and an 11-5 record. She has 81 strikeouts and three shutouts in 97.2 innings of work. Jen Kosinski and Amy Hallett both bring power to the DePauw lineup with .452 and .400 averages, respectively. Hallett is slugging an NCAC-best .829 with 10 home runs, while Kosinski has eight long balls, 10 stolen bases, and an NCAC-leading 41 runs.
Wooster and DePauw will kick off the tournament on Friday at 10 a.m., while DU and Allegheny are scheduled to take the field at 12 p.m.
Click on the link below to access the 2012 NCAC Softball Championship Tournament site.