The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) recently released the official seeds and bracket for the 2013 Softball National Championship final site.
The 10-team event takes place from May 24–30 at the South Commons Softball Complex in Columbus, Ga. The facility was home to the 1998 Summer Olympic Games.
The National Championship is a double-elimination tournament with the winner being crowned May 30. There will up to 19 games played during a seven-day span on one championship stadium field. This format is a first in the 33-year history of the event. Most recently, from 2005-12, the championship format included pool play and pool play champions advanced to double-elimination action.
On May 24, the event begins with No. 7 Auburn Montgomery (Ala.) facing No. 10 Spring Hill (Ala.) at 10 a.m. Both clubs are from the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC).
As the No. 3 seed, SSAC champion Lee University with open with an old TranSouth Conference rival, William Baptist, on Friday at 7:30. A victory would pit Lee against No. 2 seed Lubbock Christian on Monday at 7 p.m.
No. 1 seed Concordia (Calif.) won the Concordia (Calif.) Bracket in Irvine, with a 9-0 shutout of College of Idaho Wednesday. The Eagles, who have been ranked No. 1 in each of the past eight NAIA Coaches’ Top 25 Polls, bring a 48-3 overall record to Columbus. The Eagles ride the arm of Katie Cotta. The senior tossed her NAIA-record 11th career no-hitter against the Coyotes Wednesday. Concordia plays May 25 at 7 p.m. and faces the winner of No. 8 Reinhardt (Ga.) and No. 9 Saint Xavier (Ill.). Nine of the top 10-ranked teams are in the field, including No. 1-8.
The SSAC has the most programs of any conference in the 10-team field: No. 3 Lee, No. 7 Auburn Montgomery and No. 10 Spring Hill. Overall, six conferences and one Unaffiliated Group (Cal Pac/Golden State) are represented in the National Championship final site. “There are two SSAC teams (AUM and Spring Hill) on our side of the bracket, but they will play each other and push one into the losers’ bracket before we even play,” noted Lee head coach Emily Russell.
“We are very excited about our success,” said Russell, who has directed the third-ranked Lady Flames to a 47-9 record, including the SSAC tourney title and the Opening Round championship. “We are also still very focused on winning the next tournament ahead of us.
“This team has worked so hard all year in the weight room and on the field,” she stressed. “We are excited to have this challenge ahead of us. The National Tournament Championship represents the best of the best and there will not be a game that we can look past. Every inning, every pitch will require our complete focus. We are preparing for every team in the tournament with scouting information so that we are ready for everything in Columbus. We are ready for the challenge and excited about the opportunity to play.”
No. 4 Oklahoma City (8) and No. 2 Lubbock Christian (Texas) (1) are the only teams to win a previous national championship. The Stars’ eight titles are the most in NAIA history with their last coming in 2007. Lubbock Christian hoisted the banner in 2008. The Stars are playing in their 28th national championship and stand with the most postseason wins with a 110-40 mark.
There are eight teams from the 2012 national championship that return to this year’s event. No. 9 Saint Xavier (Ill.) and No. 10 Spring Hill last made the postseason in 2009 and 2003, respectively.
The Columbus Sports Council is the host and the event will be contested in the Peach State for the first time in championship history. Prior to this year, two cities in Alabama hosted the event since 2000, with Gulf Shores welcoming the teams in 2011 and 2012.
NeuLion, the NAIA’s official video-streaming company of 18 select NAIA national championship events, will be broadcasting all 19 games. Single day packages can be purchased for $9.95, while an all-Championship pass is available for $29.95.