The newly-born National Invitational Softball Championship kicks off with a vengeance on Tuesday, May 16, with all six regionals scheduled for games throughout the afternoon and evening. All 26 teams in this postseason tournament for NCAA D-I programs are slated for at least one game, although no one will be sent home thanks to the double-elimination format. A number of teams in this year’s field are making their first appearance in postseason play and will be looking to etch their program’s names in the archives.
Out in Lynchburg, Virginia, Campbell takes on Iona at 1pm ET. Following a second-place finish in the Big South Conference with an overall mark of 29-27, the Camels are looking for their first win in six games against an Iona squad that finished the MAAC with a record of 15-5 and the nation’s 18th best defense, boasting a .975 fielding percentage. The winner will face Ohio in region’s second game of tournament.
UNC Wilmington and Liberty match up in the final contest of the evening. The Lady Flames are coming off a second-place finish at the Big South Tournament; they’ll face a UNCW team that completed a 33-18 season and are playing in the postseason for the first time in Seahawk history.
Georgia State Regional
Hosted by Georgia State, the Atlanta Regional kicks off with a matchup between Western Kentucky and Alabama State at 1pm ET. The Hilltoppers, with an even 29-29 record, almost completed a magical run through the Conference USA tournament by knocking off both the fifth- and fourth-seeded teams a week ago. Meanwhile, the Lady Hornets have played seven games in the last nine days, winning six. The winner will earn the right to face top-seeded Kennesaw State at 4pm ET, who are coming off the third-most wins in program history.
On the bottom side of the bracket, host Georgia State and UT Martin duel in the night’s final contest at 7pm ET. The Panthers finished 2017 with a 58 RPI and will face a Skyhawk team led by Carly Gonzales, currently holding a 33-game on-base streak.
Illinois State Regional
Murray State and Michigan State kick of the regional in a contest slated for 4pm CT. Led by two-time Ohio Valley Conference player of the year Jessica Twaddle, Murray State will face a Michigan State team that finished seventh in the Big Ten and carded a victory against No. 20 Michigan in the conference tournament.
Another team making a postseason appearance for the first time in school history, IUPUI takes on the Illinois State Redbirds at 7pm CT for the right to play the winner of the previous showdown. Illinois State is coming off a loss to the Missouri Valley Champions, Southern Illinois, but took home the MVC regular season title for the first time since 2011. The Redbirds have made nine total trips to the NCAA Tournament. Making their first-ever postseason appearance, the Jaguars are led by Summit League coach of the year Heather Tarter, leading IUPUI to a 23-19 overall mark and a conference record of 11-6.
UT Arlington and Abilene Christian open up the regional hosted by Lamar at 4pm CT. The Wildcats will be looking to even the all-time series against the Mavericks, as UTA holds the slight 3-2 edge. UTA will be hungry to continue their winning ways, having won 10 of their final 15 games.
Host school Lamar and Louisiana-Monroe make Tuesday’s final matchup of the regional at 7pm CT. Boasting seven All-Conference selections, Lamar is led by outfielder Ashley McDowell and pitcher Ciara Luna, both of whom have broken a number of program records for the Cardinals. With a 28-28 record in 2017, the Warhawks are hoping for just their eighth win over Lamar in the 25 meetings between the two programs.
Weber State Regional
Utah State makes the short jog up to Ogden to face San Diego at 1pm MT for first of two games in Utah. The Aggies have never beaten the Toreros in six tries entering Tuesday. San Diego claims both the West Coast Conference player of the week in Taylor Spence and 2016 co-head coach of the year in Melisa McElvain, who owns the most wins in San Diego history with 336.
On the bottom-half of the bracket, host Weber State and Boise State meet at 4pm CT. The Wildcats are coming off a runner up finish in the Big Sky Conference, falling to Montana. The Broncos bring a big offense to Wildcat country, claiming the 16th best batting average in the NCAA with a .318 mark.
Nevada and UC Santa Barbara square off at 1pm PT to kick off the only West Coast regional this year. Finishing with an overall record of 28-23, the Wolf Pack also notched three wins against Power Five schools, including No. 17 Utah, Iowa State and Kansas. UCSB makes their fourth postseason appearance in school history. This season the Gauchos have been fantastic in close games, holding a 20-6 mark in games decided by two runs or fewer and a 6-1 record in extra-inning affairs.
In the final game of the regional, Cal Poly pitcher Sierra Hyland leads the Mustangs against Pacific at 4pm PT. Starting in 28 games, Hyland has struck out an impressive 243 batters in 230 innings pitched. Pacific, the regional’s host squad, compiled a 27-24 record in 2017, including nine straight victories to end the season.