Two years removed from an NCAA Division II National Championship game appearance and hungry for another shot at the title, the top-ranked Alabama-Huntsville softball team is set to make their fourth College World Series showing this week in Salem, Va.
After winning the NCAA South Region championship in come-from-behind fashion, the Chargers are set to take on NCAA South Central Region champion Midwestern State at 6:30 p.m. Thursday night.
UAH fell behind in the three-game super regional against fellow Gulf South Conference foe West Alabama by losing the series opener 10-5 in eight innings last Friday. The resilient Chargers battled back on Saturday however and pulled even in the series with a 6-3 win in game two, before rolling to an 8-0, run-rule shortened contest in the championship game.
Battle of the Equines:
The fifth-ranked Mustangs had an identical path to reach the College World Series dropping their first game to West Texas A&M before rallying in the final two games to make their first appearance in the national finals. MSU heads into the event with an impressive 52-12 mark on the season.
An NFCA and Daktronics All-South Central Region first-team selection, sophomore center fielder Elena Bennett leads the Mustangs at the dish with a .420 average and has scored 57 runs from her spot atop the MSU lineup. Junior third baseman Mallory Mooney, also a dual All-South Central first teamer, is a force in the Midwestern State lineup batting .367 on the year having broken school records in both RBIs (69) and home runs (15) this season.
The Mustangs feature a one-two, senior punch on the mound with a pair of hurlers that feature 20-plus wins each in South Central Region Pitcher of the Year Brittney Tanner (30-8) and Kristina Gutierrez (22-4). The duo has combined for a 1.53 ERA on the season with Tanner posting a 1.49, while Guiterrez holds down a 1.58 inside the circle. The pair has also combined for 25 shutouts in 2011.
· UAH is making its fourth appearance in the College World Series in 16 years. The Chargers have advanced to the NCAA tournament in 14 of those 16 seasons.
· This marks only the second-ever meeting between the two clubs. UAH holds a 1-0 advantage having taken a 4-3 win in San Antonio, Texas in 2005.
· The lone CWS opponent that the Chargers have faced this year is second-ranked North Georgia, The two squads have met three times this season with the Chargers winning all three contests. In the most recent contest, UAH topped the Saints 9-1 in Dahlonega, Ga., on March 13th before going on a 25-game winning streak. The Chargers also topped North Georgia 5-4 the day prior and 2-1 on February 20th in the Charger Chillout in Decatur, Ala.
· Three of the eight schools in the CWS also had team's advance to the NCAA Division II Men's Elite Eight in Springfield, Mass. Midwestern State and Minnesota State, Mankato and UAH were each 2011 regional champions.
· The Chargers will travel by bus charter for the 461 mile trek to Salem, Va. and will lodge at the Sheraton Roanoke Airport.
All games of the 2011 NCAA Division II College World Series will be streamed live on NCAA.com for free.
All-tournament passes for the five day event are $37 for adults and $22 for senior citizens, students and youth. Single-day tickets are also available for $11 for adults and $7 for senior citizens, students and youth.