FORT COLLINS, COLO. – Last week the NCAA passed legislation adding the National Invitational Softball Championship as a permanent season-ending event for softball. Since the return of the event in 2017, Triple Crown Sports has been operating the championship off a waiver from the NCAA. The move allows teams to plan and budget for a postseason tournament now before the season gets underway.
“The Postseason NISC really matters to coaches, players and the sport,” said NISC director David King. “We’ve produced the Postseason WNIT in basketball since 1998 and have witnessed firsthand the impact that event has made on women’s basketball. To be able to permanently bring the same concept to softball is huge and will benefit the sport for years to come.”
The 2022 NISC concluded on May 25 with 12 teams traveling to Triple Crown headquarters in Fort Collins, CO to compete for a championship. Baylor came out on top defeating UNLV 4-0 in the finals.
“We had a great experience at the NISC,” said Baylor head coach Glenn Moore. “Playing in this tournament accomplished all that we had hoped it would. We got in 11 additional high intense practices and ended it with a chance to win a championship. We saw the true competitive spirit of our athletes. The tournament is very well organized and communication with coaches is a priority. I believe the decision to play in this event was one of the best I could have made for the future of our program.”
With guidance from the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), Triple Crown brought back the NISC in 2017 to highlight the explosive growth of women’s softball and the depth of talent on college rosters from coast to coast. Liberty would go on to host and win the 2017 NISC championship with a 3-1 over Lamar. In 2018, LMU would claim the championship with a 5-0 victory over UC Riverside. The 2019 championship featured the regional rounds being hosted on campuses before the final four teams traveled to Colorado to face off at TC Colorado Field in Fort Collins, Colo. UT Arlington would go on to knock off Iowa State 4-3 to claim the honors.
Triple Crown reignited the NISC in 2017 after a 16-year hiatus. Started by Western Illinois head softball coach Kathy Veroni, the National Invitational Championship (NIC) took shape in 1986 to give quality NCAA Division I teams that did not qualify for the 16-team NCAA nationals an opportunity for high-caliber postseason competition. Michigan would finish 5-0 and become the first NIC champion. The NIC would run for 13 years before the final championship in 2001. Other NIC champions include Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Northeast Louisiana, Sam Houston State and Illinois State.
For more information on the Postseason NISC please visit www.womensnisc.com or follow us on Twitter @WomensNISC.
BAYLOR 4, UNLV 0
FORT COLLINS, CO – Aliyah Binford handed in an MVP-type performance on the mound, holding UNLV to just two hits in a 4-0 shutout victory for Baylor to secure the 2022 Postseason NISC title.
Baylor (32-24) jumped on UNLV (43-15) right from the start hitting four singles right up the middle between second base and the shortstop. Emily Hott got the scoring started for the Bears with an RBI single, bringing home McKenzie Wilson, who was named to the all-tournament team. Josie Bower continued the hot hitting, scoring Kaci West, an all-tournament team selection, on an RBI single to give Baylor a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
Baylor flirted with added to the lead in the top of the 3rd after Kaci West hit a triple, and again in the top of the 4th with the bases loaded but couldn’t bring a runner home. In the top of the 5th inning, however, Baylor extended its lead when Bower once again delivered with a two-RBI double to give the Bears a 4-0 lead, leaving the rest to Binford on the mound.
Binford was close to flawless pitching, not giving up a hit until the bottom of the 5th inning. The sophomore pitcher struck out nine hitters in her complete-game performance, surrendering just two hits.
In the bottom of the 5th inning, UNLV senior pitcher etcher her name in the record books after striking out Binford and Ana Watson to break UNLV’s single-season strikeouts record that was set by three-time Olympic champion Lori Harrigan (223) in 1991.
UNLV 1, CENTRAL ARKANSAS 0
FORT COLLINS, CO — UNLV pitcher Jasmine Martin allowed no hits through six innings, reliever Jenny Bressler put up another clean inning in the seventh, and the Rebels advanced to the 2022 NISC title game on the power of the combined no-hitter and a solo home run from Denise Armendariz.
UNLV will face Baylor in Thursday’s championship game, set for 11 a.m. at the TC Colorado Field. UNLV won the National Invitational Volleyball Championships (NIVC) last November, sweeping Valparaiso in three sets.
In the bottom of the seventh, Central Arkansas’ Tremere Harris reached first base on an error and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Maddie Schmidt made a lunging catch at the left field fence for the second out with Harris moving to third base. Morgan Nelson fouled out to first to end the game.
Armendariz, who has been the hitting star for UNLV (41-14) repeatedly, hit her home run in the fourth inning. Martin (7-1) gave up three walks and struck out two.
Jordan Johnson was excellent in the circle as well, giving the Sugar Bears (37-21) a great starting effort with 5 1/3 innings pitched, allowing four hits and two walks to go with four strikeouts.
UNLV got a leaping catch from Lauryn Barker for the first out of the UCA sixth, and the inning ended when catcher Hailey Schmaltz nailed a would-be base stealer at second.
BAYLOR 5, KANSAS 4
FORT COLLINS, CO – Josie Bower’s RBI single up the middle in the bottom of the seventh inning capped a rally by Baylor over Kansas, earning the Bears a hard-fought berth in Thursday’s championship game of the 2022 NISC.
Baylor (31-24) will face either Central Arkansas or UNLV for the title, with first pitch scheduled for 11 a.m. MT at the TC Colorado Field.
In the seventh, McKenzie Wilson led off and was hit by a pitch. Taylor Strain had a bunt single; Emily Hott singled and Wilson scored on outfielder error to tie the game at 4-all. After an intentional walk to load bases, Bower worked her way to a full count and then drilled her RBI single for the game-winner.
Kansas (20-36) created some early impact in the top of the first inning – Ashlyn Anderson walked and then scored on a double from Olivia Bruno. Lyric Moore drove in Bruno with a triple and came across on a throwing error to make it 3-0. In the third, S Espy doubled and after two outs, Bruno came through again with a run-scoring single to push KU ahead, 4-0.
Aliyah Binford gave Baylor something to cheer with a two-out, two-run homer in the bottom of the fourth – the shot to center field also brought in Josie Bower to cut the KU lead to 4-2.
Kansas’ Haleigh Harper threw out a runner at home from shortstop for a key out in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Bears kept fighting, however, with Kaci West driving in Wilson with a single to pull Baylor closer, 4-3.
Binford threw four innings of scoreless relief, with two hits allowed and four strikeouts to get the win. The teams faced off in Big 12 Conference action in early April with the Bears winning two of three games.
UNLV 3, NORTH ALABAMA 1
FORT COLLINS, CO – Denise Armendariz, who had six RBI in UNLV’s game Tuesday, came through with a two-RBI single in the sixth inning Wednesday, allowing the Rebels to slip past North Alabama and into the championship round of the 2022 NISC.
No. 3-seed UNLV will face No. 4 Central Arkansas in one semifinal, set for 4 p.m. Wednesday.
Sofia Morales singled to start the sixth for UNLV (41-14), and Mia Trejo doubled to bring up Armendariz, the team’s leader in hits for the season. On the first pitch, she landed a hit in left-center to make the score 3-1.
Harley Stokes hit a solo home run for No. 6 North Alabama (40-20) in the bottom of the second inning, her 19th of the season. Janyssa Martin tied it up for the Rebels with a homer in the top of the fifth.
Jenny Bressler allowed three hits in a complete-game effort, striking out six with no walks to go to 29-7 for the season. UNLV’s Morales made a difficult catch against the fence in center field for the second out of the seventh inning.
The Lions defeated UNLV earlier in the tournament, 9-5.
KANSAS 4, VIRGINIA 2
FORT COLLINS, CO – Sarah Roszak, who had just 33 at-bats this season entering Wednesday game, hit a home run in the sixth inning for a key insurance run as the No. 12-seeded Jayhawks topped No.1-seed Virginia to move to the NISC championship round.
Kansas (20-35) will play fellow Big 12 team Baylor in one semifinal, set for 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.
The Jayhawks took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning, as Olivia Bruno’s double to the right-center fence brought in Ashlyn Anderson and Shayna Espy. Virginia (29-25) knotted the contest with a productive fourth inning, beginning with a run when Abby Weaver was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Lauren VanAssche followed with a sacrifice fly that scored Gabby Baylog.
Angela Price doubled with one out in the fourth for KU; she came home on a single by Shelby Gayre as the Jayhawks moved ahead, 3-2.
Weaver and VanAssche each singled to start the seventh inning for the Cavaliers; a fielder’s choice put runners on first and third with one out. Kasey Hamilton came on to pitch for KU and quickly halted the threat on a double-play lineout.
Kansas starter Katie Brooks went for 3 1/3 innings; Savanna DesRochers provided solid relief over three innings, allowing two hits and registering three strikeouts.
BAYLOR 18, NORTH ALABAMA 8
FORT COLLINS, CO — Baylor clinched a berth in the championship round of the 2022 NISC, registering a victory over North Alabama in Tuesday’s final game of the 2022 NISC boosted by five home runs, four doubles and 20 total hits.
Baylor (30-24) will play in the 1:30 p.m. MT semifinal Wednesday against Kansas or Virginia.
The Lions jumped ahead 2-0 in the bottom of the first inning, as an Haley Jones double scored Lexie Harper, followed by a sacrifice fly from Georgia Land. The Bears came right back in the top of the second, tying the game with a two-run homer from Ana Watson.
Baylor took its first lead in the third — Taylor Strain singled with one out, moved to second on a sacrifice and scored on a single from Kaci West. Josie Bower then doubled to score West, giving Baylor a 4-2 advantage. RBI hits from Sydney Collazos and Zadie LaValley pushed the lead to 6-2.
Emily Hott tacked another on for Baylor with a solo home run in the fourth; the Bears took full command in the fifth starting with a two-run home run from Watson, who brought in Bower with the shot to left field as the score moved to 9-2. Taylor Strain closed the inning with a two-run single that drove in McKenzie Wilson and Rhein Trochim. Watson ended the day with two home runs, four runs scored and five RBI.
The Lions (40-19) kept the contest going with a two-run homer in the bottom of the fifth by Harley Stokes that brought in Emma Broadfoot, making the score 11-4. Baylor scored seven runs in the top of the seventh.
CENTRAL ARKANSAS 5, VIRGINIA 3
FORT COLLINS, CO – Central Arkansas clinched a spot in the championship round of the 2022 NISC, moving past No. 1-seeded Virginia after holding off the Cavaliers’ rally in the seventh inning.
The Sugar Bears (37-20) will play in the 4 p.m. semifinal on Wednesday, while Virginia (29-24) takes on Kansas at 8:30 a.m. – the winner of that game also earns a berth in the semis.
Sarah Coon hit an 0-2 pitch for a solo home run in the bottom of the second inning for Virginia. Central Arkansas pulled into the lead on a two-run home run from Morgan Nelson in the top of the fourth. The Sugar Bears weren’t done in the frame, as Kristen Whitehouse added a two-run homer with two outs to make it 4-1.
Tremere Harris scored on a two-out hit from Morgan Nelson in the fifth to boost the fourth-seeded Central Arkansas lead to 5-1.
Kayla Beaver threw an outstanding game for the Sugar Bears, allowing five hits and three walks to go with seven strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings. She pitched eight innings on Sunday in a one-run win over Kansas.
Virginia’s last push was keyed by Leah Boggs, who struck a two-run single to score Lauren VanAssche and Abby Weaver, making it 5-3 with one out.
UCA reliever Jordan Johnson notched a strikeout, and after a Katie Goldberg single loaded the bases, Johnson got another strikeout to finish the job.
UNLV 6, TARLETON STATE 4
FORT COLLINS, CO – Denise Armendariz dug UNLV out of a late-inning hole, launching a three-run home run in the top of the seventh as the Rebels came back to top Tarleton State and stay on track for a berth in the championship round of the 2022 NISC.
UNLV (40-14) will play Baylor or North Alabama on Wednesday; that game-winner will be in the NISC final four.
Mia Trejo and Janyssa Martin both walked to start the seventh for third-seeded UNLV, and Armendariz hit a no-doubt blast to left-center to make it 6-4.
Georgia Capell and Katy Schaefer both hit solo home runs for No. 11 Tarleton State (30-25) in the bottom of the sixth inning that pushed the team ahead, 4-3. That was Capell’s fifth home run of the tournament, and Schaefer hit a solo home run for the Texans in the bottom of second.
Armendariz jumped in earlier Tuesday with a two-run RBI for UNLV in the third, and she added another run-scoring hit in the fifth, giving her all six of the team’s RBI on the day.
Tarleton State had an early rally with an RBI single from Brittany Coe, closing the Texans within 3-2 in the bottom of the fifth. With the tying run on third, UNLV reliever Alanna Thiede measured up to the moment, striking out two batters to end the threat.
KANSAS 8, BOWLING GREEN 3
FORT COLLINS, CO – Kansas muscled up to start Tuesday’s action at the 2022 NISC, hitting four home runs to power past Bowling Green and move within one more win to earning a spot in the championship round.
The Jayhawks (19-35) are the No. 12 seed for tournament after playing in the demanding Big 12 Conference and will face either Virginia or Central Arkansas on Wednesday, with the winner of that contest making the final four of the event.
Lyric Moore started the KU offense with a solo home run in the top of the second inning. The Falcons countered in the bottom of the frame with two-out RBI hits from Sarah Gonzalez and Payton Hamm, putting Bowling Green up, 2-1.
Olivia Bruno, who homered in KU’s win Monday over Stephen F. Austin, launched a three-run shot in the third inning to put the Jayhawks in front again, 4-2. Bruno added an RBI double in the fifth, and Moore drove in Bruno with her own double to make it 6-2. Jordan Richards added a solo shot in the sixth, her first career home run, and Savanna DesRochers drilled another home run in the seventh.
Kansas starting pitcher Kasey Hamilton threw five innings, allowing four hits, to get the win – she got substantial help from her defense as Kansas turned three double plays. No. 9 Bowling Green, which added a run in the seventh on a hit from Gonzalez, ends the season at 34-21.