Game 3: BYU vs. San Jose State
BYU 5, SAN JOSE STATE 2
FORT COLLINS, CO – Kaysen Korth worked through a rain delay and allowed three hits to go with seven strikeouts for BYU, which came from behind to top San Jose State in Thursday afternoon action of the 2023 NISC.
BYU (33-16) started the bottom of the first with a double from Ailana Agbayani, which was followed with a double by Maddie Bejarano. San Jose State tied the game, 1-1, with its first hit, a solo home run from Ashley Rico with two outs in the fourth inning, and Jocylyn Vidal followed with her own solo homer as the Spartans took a 2-1 lead.
After the rain delay, Mallory Barber hit a double that brought in Maddie Udall for the Cougars, and that tied the score, 2-2. BYU kept it up from there, with a two-run homer off the bat of Huntyr Ava in the bottom of the fifth (her 15th of the season) to make it 4-2.
Maddie Udall’s solo home run for BYU in the sixth, her first of the year, gave the Cougars a 5-2 lead.
BYU will play Maryland on Friday in the winner’s bracket, while the Spartans (26-29) will take on CSUN on Friday in the loser’s bracket.
Game 2: Iowa vs. UC Davis
IOWA 6, UC DAVIS 3
FORT COLLINS, CO – Grace Banes had a home run and three RBI as Iowa moved past UC Davis on Thursday at the 2023 NISC.
Banes led off the bottom of the second for the Hawkeyes with a home run to start the scoring, and two errors on the same play brought in two more runs as Iowa (32-27) claimed a 3-0 lead.
Sarah Starks changed up the mood for UC Davis with a two-out, two run single in the top of the third inning as the Aggies pulled within 3-2. That gave her 92 career RBI, a program record during its time in Division I.
Banes continued her heroics with a two-out, two-run single in the fifth that brought in Denali Loecker and Tory Bennett as Iowa moved ahead, 5-2.
Mickey Buscemi, who entered the game with two hits in 17 at-bats on the season, punched a run-scoring single for UC Davis in the sixth to make it 5-3 as Libbie McMahan came across. Tristan Doster countered for Iowa with an RBI single that plated Brylee Klosterman as the score moved to 6-3.
Iowa will face Tarleton State or South Dakota State in the winner’s bracket Friday; the Aggies (29-21) play in the loser’s bracket on Friday.
Game 1: Maryland vs. CSUN
MARYLAND 8, CSUN 0 (6)
FORT COLLINS, CO – Maryland pitcher Courtney Wyche pitched a five-hit shutout with seven strikeouts and Megan Mikami finished it off for the Terrapins with a two-run homer as Maryland beat CSUN on Thursday in a run-rule victory at the 2023 NISC.
Top-seeded Maryland (37-17) took a 3-0 lead in the first inning, with Jaeda McFarland driving in Mikami with a single and Trinity Schlotterback driving in two more runs with a two-out double. Freshman Sammi Woods hit her first collegiate home run in the second to make it 4-0.
CSUN went for a pitching change in the third inning, but Maryland was undaunted – Kamryn Davis scored on a fielder’s choice to make it 5-0. Amelia Lech hit her 16th home run of the year, a solo shot in the fifth, as the Terrapins moved ahead 6-0. Mikami’s home run, the first for her this season, also drove in Woods.
Wyche moved to 18-9 on the season and now has 186 strikeouts in 173 innings pitched.
Maryland will play San Jose State or BYU on Friday in the winner’s bracket. The Matadors (28-23) will play in the loser’s bracket on Friday.
by Kyle Koso
Some exotic plants spend years in a holding pattern, waiting for the right conditions to flower and express their true beauty.
It’s not an inaccurate way to look at the Maryland softball program, a group whose buds are preparing to burst.
The Terrapins have been bumping around the distant reaches of the Big Ten standings since their arrival in the conference in 2015 and made a gesture to change things up with the hiring of Mark Montgomery away from Louisiana Tech in late 2019. Fresh plans and new procedures were certainly adopted by Montgomery but assessing changes and seeing results proved nearly impossible with the COVID-addled season of 2020 and a 2021 campaign that featured only conference games.
But in 2023, there’s proof that Montgomery and Maryland were onto something. The Terrapins got off to a scorching start and were a handful in the Big Ten as well, closing the regular season with a 36-17 record – looking to cap the season on a title run, the team is the top seed in the 2023 NISC D-I postseason event, which begins Thursday at the Triple Crown Sports complex in Fort Collins, CO.
The Terrapins will start with 10 a.m. MT game against CSUN (28-22).
Montgomery’s mantra of patience turned out to be pretty sage when he took the job, fully aware of the program’s history of struggle but not inclined to totally flush the roster which was filled with dutiful, determined players. Fact is, until COVID’s ripple effects calmed down, there was no purpose in hasty maneuvers.
“First and foremost, you have to go in and embrace what you have. Too many coaches will take a new job and are quick to believe there are more problems than solutions – running old players off or bringing new players in,” said Montgomery, who has 652 wins in 23 seasons as a college coach. “You walk in, see what’s laid out in front of you, embrace the situation. You try to make the players you have the best they possibly can be, and grow from there. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and I have to remind myself of that occasionally. We all want it to happen faster than it really can; I was blessed because when I came in, we had good kids.
“They worked hard and left everything they had on the field. Were we as talented as we need to be? No. Did we have as much depth as we needed? Absolutely not. But we’ve been able to acquire pieces and hopefully continue to work with the players we have, make them better.”
Right away in the 2023 season, Maryland showed up as a team that had played its cards properly. At the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge, the Terrapins beat then-No. 22 Oregon and No. 3 Oklahoma State; that was followed with two-game sweeps of Virginia and North Carolina in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, and tournament titles at East Carolina and Liberty.
“I’d say I was pleasantly surprised. There was a knowledge we were good, but I just didn’t know how good,” Montgomery said. “You make additions or subtractions to the roster, the chemistry changes, and there are a lot of pieces moving. It was a matter of, let’s roll the ball out and see how we do. (Puerto Vallarta) set the stage for a successful season, even if it didn’t end quite how we wanted.”
That’s a reference to Maryland playing well in the Big Ten conference slate, just not quite at the level needed to qualify for the NCAA postseason tournament. The tipping point was arguably a five-games-in-five days stretch that saw two losses at Rutgers and two shutouts at the hands of Nebraska, which would eventually claim an NCAA berth.
A couple other losses hurt, and Maryland had to work through some major injury disruptions as well as that funny feeling when you’re no longer the underdog and other teams are coming hard after you.
“A lot of it was beginning to learn to deal with expectations and pressure. The team got off to a good start, was playing well, and we lose a heartbreak at Indiana where we had the game won going to the bottom of the seventh,” Montgomery said. “Then we have a game in horrible weather, it’s miserable, and a flat-out good Indiana team took it to us. Then come the doubts … are we good enough, do we belong, and we had to search for some answers. It took us a while. This team had never had to deal with it before because they’d never been good enough. We had to learn how to be the favorite, or react when we didn’t do well.
“The first two years, there was not a lot of growth there. The last two seasons, it’s been full of growth and development, and how to take the next steps in winning. That’s what the NISC is for us – what we want to do is go there, continue to learn and grow as a program, where we can become a mainstay in the NCAA’s.”
Offensively, the Terrapins have been paced by Jaeda McFarland, the 2021 Big Ten freshman of the year and who has already earned her degree in just three years. In 2023, she’s been a speedy and strong-armed center fielder just like always, hitting .366 with 60 hits, 41 runs and 22 stolen bases – she was Montgomery’s first recruit at Maryland, following him after originally signing up with Louisiana Tech. Sophomore Amelia Lech has been another key asset, hitting 15 home runs to go with 46 RBI and a team-best 29 walks.
Lech barely hit .100 her freshman year, which was cluttered with horrible news from home (deaths in the family) and the classic challenges of being new to D-I softball, but Montgomery credited her for hard work in the offseason that allowed her to fulfill her promise in 2023. Maryland also features, arguably, the best defensive catcher in the conference in Kiley Goff, who also hits .301 – Goff’s father, Greg, is the head baseball coach at Purdue.
Maryland has benefitted profoundly by the work of two senior pitchers, Trinity Schlotterbeck (15-6, 1.90 ERA) and Courtney Wyche (17-9, 2.60 ERA). They’ve combined for almost 300 innings of work and provide day-in, day-out comfort for a roster that knows its pitching will keep them in range while they figure out how to push enough runs across to win on a regular basis.
With the extra COVID year still in their pockets, Wyche will return to Maryland to pitch in 2024 and start grad school. Her educational needs will send Schlotterback elsewhere, however, as she’ll pitch next at Florida Atlantic.
“They both have had some individual struggles, but they’ve done an amazing job,” added Montgomery. “Those two were sitting here waiting when I came in as freshmen pitchers, ready to get after it. Watching them lead our team has been a treat, because it all starts in the circle. They’ve gotten better, and the team has gotten better right alongside.”
FORT COLLINS, CO – Tournament officials have announced the 8-team field that will head to Colorado for the 2023 National Invitational Softball Championships, a Division-I postseason softball event with action set to begin Thursday, May 18.
All games will take place on the two fields at Triple Crown Sports in Fort Collins, CO, Red Rocks Field and Horsetooth Field. Tournament format features two four-team pods that will play a double-elimination slate, with winners of the two winner’s brackets and loser’s brackets advancing to a single-elim championship bracket.
The semifinals are set for 9 a.m. and noon on May 20, with the championship game scheduled for 3 p.m. – all those games are on Red Rocks Field. Maryland (36-17) earned the top seed for the 2023 NISC. May 21 is available for NISC games, if needed, pending weather or other unforeseen delays. Here are the other seven teams in the field in alphabetical order:
San José State (26-28)
South Dakota State (37-17)
Tarleton State (30-27)
UC Davis (29-20)
“We have added a second competitive diamond at Triple Crown in Colorado to add to the excitement that Baylor and Central Arkansas brought in 2022,” said Dave King, NISC director and founder of Triple Crown Sports. “This should create one of the most unique environments in the college game.”
Here’s the schedule for the first two rounds:
Thursday, May 18 (all times Mountain):
Maryland vs. CSUN, 10 a.m. (Red Rocks Field)
Iowa vs. UC Davis, 10 a.m. (Horsetooth Field)
San José State vs. BYU, 1 p.m. (RR)
Tarleton State vs. South Dakota State, 1 p.m. (HT)
Friday, May 19
Loser’s bracket, both fields, 9 a.m.
Winner’s bracket, both fields, noon
Loser’s bracket, both fields, 3 p.m.
The 2017 NISC was won by Liberty; the 2018 crown went to Loyola Marymount, and the 2019 title went to UT Arlington. The event was suspended for two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic, with Baylor winning the 2022 championship.
About Triple Crown Sports
Based in Fort Collins, CO., Triple Crown Sports has been producing youth, high school and college events for 40 years. TCS runs both the preseason and postseason WNIT basketball events and produces the men’s and women’s DI Cancun Challenge tournaments in November. Triple Crown is also powering “WNIT” concept events in D-I softball (NISC) and volleyball (NIVC), with those two events debuting in 2017. Triple Crown’s PV College Challenge features more than 10 of the top DI college softball teams in the country each year in Puerto Vallarta, MX. Anchored by the 1,000-team Colorado 4th of July event, TC fastpitch tournaments draw the nation’s finest club programs, and hundreds of college coaches attend TCS events for recruiting purposes. TCS produces one of the largest youth baseball events in the world with the Omaha SlumpBuster during the College World Series. The Triple Crown Volleyball NIT has become the top-recruited club volleyball event in the country each February when 550 teams compete in Kansas City, MO.
About College Sports Evaluation
College Sports Evaluation is the No. 1 verified evaluation company that puts sensor data analysis in the hands of colleges to help assess in-game performance and athletic development. With cutting-edge equipment, in-house mathematicians and three grad university partnerships, College Sports Evaluation is dedicated to improving current rosters along with the collection and analysis of longitudinal data. CSE also tests youth athletes both subjectively and objectively to aid in player development.
Several teams from 2022 event shining brightly this season
Tournament officials with the National Invitational Softball Championship (NISC) are deep into preparations for the 2023 event, scheduled for May 18-21 at the Triple Crown Sports complex in Fort Collins, CO.
This will be the fifth edition of the NISC, which offers an NCAA Division-I softball postseason option for deserving programs outside the NCAA tournament field. In 2022, the NISC crowned Baylor as champion; previous winners of the event include Liberty, Loyola-Marymount and UT-Arlington. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, there was no event held in 2020 and 2021.
The NISC will be played on two fields at the TCS facility in a double-elim format through the Super Regionals round. The championship concludes with a four-team single-elim bracket.
Many teams that played in the 2022 NISC have enjoyed outstanding 2023 campaigns. Baylor is 22-5, ranked 20th in the most recent NFCA Coaches Poll, and owns a victory over top-ranked Oklahoma, the Sooners’ only loss of the season. Central Arkansas (18-7) beat No. 12 Arkansas on March 6; North Alabama has a 17-6 record, and Rutgers is 23-10. Virginia is also off to a good start, sitting at 20-10.
Baylor coach Glenn Moore took a few moments to share the impact and value his program received from playing in the 2022 NISC.
Q: One theory is, the NISC could either help a young team get valuable postseason experience or be a nice reward for a veteran team looking for that last run together. Did Baylor in 2022 have any of that going on?
First of all this team loved playing the game. We were young with on two seniors and a junior on the roster and we made youthful mistakes that ultimately cost us, as an NCAA bubble team to not get selected. We felt we were very close to getting over the hump with this group. The opportunity to practice and compete for a purpose would be valuable to us not only for the legacy of the current team but also for future teams. The key for us was the team embracing this opportunity and selling out to winning a championship. They did and we had 11 more high quality practices and four competitions. The environment was exciting and the event was run in a first-class manner. I have no doubt this decision paid great dividends to getting us back to where we expect to be as a program. It was also one of the most enjoyable experiences for any team I’ve coached.
Did it lift the roster’s spirits to know the 2022 season didn’t have to just stop after the Big 12 tourney and the tough loss to Iowa State?
We want athletes who love competition more than the trophy. This team was that team. Everyone wants to win the biggest prize on the biggest stage but ultimately when you have left it all on the field and your name wasn’t called there’s now another option for those who were close. There are many great teams in our sport today and with all the automatic qualifiers there are often teams left out of the field of 64 that are stronger than some chosen unfortunately. We wanted to keep playing and because of the NISC we played longer than 48 of the 64 teams in the NCAA tournament.
What would you tell teams looking at the NISC but are not quite sure about playing?
I’ve had many ask about our experience and I can only speak for Baylor but it’s clear to everyone involved in our program that we benefited from the experience. As we started the 2022 fall season it was evident we were already on solid footing and practiced with more confidence and higher expectations than we would have after a year of just “falling short.” The attitude was immediately of a championship mindset from the start.
Women's NISC - Home (womensnisc.com)
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.
Championship Recap: Baylor vs. UNLV
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.
Game 19 recap: Kansas vs. Baylor
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.