2018 NAIA Softball Opening Round Preview: Dodge City Bracket

DODGE CITY, Kan. – Midland University is set to begin play in the NAIA Softball Opening Round on Monday morning. The No. 3-seeded Warriors are one of four teams in the Dodge City Bracket along with No. 1-seed University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma, No. 2-seed University of Jamestown and No. 4-seed Oklahoma Wesleyan University.

There are nine other sites for the NAIA Opening Round with the champion of each bracket advancing to the 2018 NAIA Softball World Series in Clermont, Florida.

There will be live video coverage of the Dodge City Bracket via the KCAC, here, for a fee of $10 per game or $25 for all Dodge City Bracket games. Live stats will also be available via DakStats, here.

For a complete look at all ten sites and for updated results, click here.

Team Breakdowns:

Science & Arts (50-5, ranked No. 5 nationally)

About the Drovers: USAO swept the Sooner Athletic Conference (SAC) postseason awards as Choloe Clifton was named the Player-of-the-Year, Emily Cerny was named Pitcher-of-the-Year and Darci Chester was named Newcomer-of-the-Year while head coach Jadyn Wallis was named Coach-of-the-Year.

Clifton, who is listed as an infielder, has started most of the games behind the plate at catcher for USAO and typically hits third in the lineup. She bats from the left side and leads the team with 70 RBI on the year while batting .426 with 6 homeruns. Clifton ranks 5th in the NAAIA with her RBI total, which is also a new USAO school-record.

Cerny may just be a freshman, but she has been a key piece to the USAO team this year. She leads the team in ERA (1.17) and has 26 wins on the year. She has pitched 185.0 innings this season with 240 strikeouts. She ranks 4th in the NAIA in hits allowed per game (1.37) and is 5th in opponent batting average (.165).

Chester is also a freshman who is relied on to produce in just her first year. She leads the team with a .455 batting average, which ranks 18th in the NAIA. She is splits time behind the plate with Clifton and most recently has been the designated player, batting in the clean-up spot.

Key Statistics: USAO keeps their opponents off the bases as they rank 3rd in the NAIA, holding their foes to a .178 batting average. They are 6th in the nation in ERA at 1.37 as a team as well. They come into the tournament with a 50-5 record. Three of their losses came to No. 2-ranked Oklahoma City University while the other two were to Texas Wesleyan early in the season.

They have faced both Midland and Oklahoma Wesleyan in the regular season. They defeated the Warriors 12-3 and swept OKWU in a doubleheader, 5-2 and 3-2.

Jamestown (42-8, ranked No. 11 nationally)

About the Jimmies: Jamestown comes into the tournament with a 43-7 record. They won the North Star Athletic Association (NSAA) regular season championship and were tournament runners-up. Like other teams in the Dodge City Bracket, they had their conference’s Pitcher-of-the-Year and Coach-of-the-Year as Kat Miska and head coach Kevin Gall took home the honors.

Miska is a just a freshman but has been the leader in the circle with a 1.55 ERA. She has 15 wins and the year and ranks 15th in the NAIA with 3 saves. During the regular season she split starts with senior teammate Brittany Rheault, who has 15 wins on the year with a 2.84 ERA.

At the plate they are led by the duo of Mikayla Frost and Emma Keller. Frost is the team leader in batting average at .438, while also leading the Jimmies with 8 stolen bases on the year. Keller has 49 RBI to lead the team and is second in batting with a .428 average. Both players are lefties and bat 1-2 in the order

Key Statistics: The Jimmies are 2nd in the nation with 25 triples on the year. They also rank in the top 10 in hits per game (10.28), average (.355), total hits (524, and slugging percentage (.513). They average just over 6 runs per game.

Midland (34-14, receiving votes in latest poll)

About the Warriors: Midland had a pair of Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) award winners in Jaylee Hinrichs, Pitcher-of-the-Year, and Mike Heard, Coach-of-the-Year. They were regular season co-champions and were tournament runners-up.

Hinrichs, a junior, led the team in the circle. She has 22 wins on the year coming into the tournament and has struck out 294 batters, a new school record. In 200.2 innings she has given up 135 hits and has an ERA of 1.81. She ranks 10th in the NAIA in innings pitched and is 2nd in strikeouts.

Sierra Athow, a sophomore shortstop, ranks first in the nation with 31 doubles on the year. She is also the team leader in average (.409) and RBI (37). Cather/designated player Katlin Anders is second on team with a .364 average is just one behind Athow in RBI with 36. The duo hit back-to-back in the Warriors’ lineup, typically second and third in the order

Key Statistics: The Warriors’ strength is in the circle as they rank 4th in opponents struck out with 362. They also hold their foes to a .232 average, which is 23rd best. Offensively Midland is 4th in the NAIA with 108 doubles on the year.

Oklahoma Wesleyan (29-19)

About the Eagles: Oklahoma Wesleyan earned the second bid out of the Kansas College Athletic Conference (KCAC) as the second-place team in the regular season. Ashley Stone earned KCAC Player-of-the-Year honors. She has a .424 average which is 2nd on the team. She leads the Eagles with 57 RBI and 11 home runs.

Stone is 13th in the NAIA in total RBI and is 25th in home runs. She is a freshman is listed as a second baseman but normally serves as the designated player, batting in the third slot of the order most of the season but has been dropped down to the last part of the lineup in the past few games.

In the circle OKWU relies on Ashleigh Capps and Abbey Ely. Capps has a 13-9 record with a 1.92 ERA while Ely is 14-9 with an ERA of 3.18. Both pitchers are right around 100 strikeouts on the season with Capps at 90 and Ely with 104.

Key Statistics: Oklahoma Wesleyan is 21st in opponent batting average on the season at .230. They hit .307 as a team and average 5.38 runs per game. They have faced two teams in the bracket this year, dropping a doubleheader to USAO and splitting a doubleheader with Midland.