No. 23-ranked Tommie Softball (37-9) faces St. Catherine (35-12) this Friday (4 p.m.) and Saturday (1 p.m.) on the SCU campus. The best-of-3 series winner advances to the eight-team national tournament, which starts May 25 in Oklahoma City.
All games will have live video and live stats.
This marks the 14th year in a row that a Tommie team is competing in the NCAA softball playoffs, and third time in the last four years that UST is in the Super Regional round.
UST's 25 NCAA playoff appearances are tied for third most among all Division III programs behind only Central (Iowa) and Ithaca (N.Y.). St. Thomas has an all-time NCAA playoff record of 72-47. That includes a 57-29 NCAA playoff mark in 16 appearances under Coach John Tschida.
St. Catherine is making just its second NCAA tournament apperance in program history. It went 3-2 in the 2016 regional and is 4-1 so far this season.
Did You Know?
St. Thomas is among seven at-large playoff selections among 16 teams still alive nationally.
Last weekend, St. Thomas went 3-0 in Pella, Iowa, to reach the Super Regional for the third time in four seasons as it outscored three opponents 25-10. St. Catherine lost its opener in Decorah, Iowa, then won four games in the losers' bracket to win the tournament and make its first Super Regional appearance. They edged No. 3-ranked Luther (Iowa) twice on Sunday, including a 6-5 walk off in the deciding game.
The Tommies won the MIAC regular-season race at 18-4, one game better than St. Catherine, after those teams split a regular-season doubleheader at UST (10-4 SCU win, 10-7 UST win). In the MIAC playoffs, the Wildcats topped the Tommies 10-2 en route to winning the playoff.
In 2016, the Tommies split two games at St. Catherine in the regular season (1-0 loss, 5-2 win), then went 2-1 against the Wildcats in the MIAC playoffs (3-0 win, 5-4 loss, 6-0 win).
Did You Know?
St. Thomas is 34-0 in games when it allows three or less runs, but just 3-9 when it allows four or more.
Conference champion St. Thomas had six players among 36 named to the All-MIAC Softball honor team for 2017.
Three of those UST players have also been named to the NFCA All-Region team -- sophomore 2B Melissa Barry made first team; sophomore utility player Chase Shortly made second team; senior OF Megan Bush made third team.
This was Walek's third All-MIAC honor, and Barry and Connelly were repeat honorees.
Shortly leads the team in RBI (40), hits (54) and doubles (20) while batting .378.
Barry is batting .374 wth 52 hits with 34 runs, 16 steals and 12 RBI, and has just one error in 178 defensive chances. In 11 postseason games in 2016, Barry had 15 hits and eight runs.
Barnes is hitting .359 with 42 hits, 26 RBI and 10 walks in 45 games, with 14 extra-base hits and 14 steals. She has a 12-game hitting streak, with a .450 batting clip in that span (18-for-40, 15 runs, 11 RBI). After a slow start she's batting .388 over her last 34 games. Barnes is batting 10-for-19 with two walks, eight RBI and eight runs in six postseason games.
Walek, a 2014 All-America, has 35 career home runs to rank in the top five in conference history. In 176 career games she also is hitting .322 with 123 RBI, 141 hits, 69 runs, 38 doubles and 69 walks.
Bush leads the team with a .422 average, with 21 extra-base hits and 38 RBI. She has 111 hits while batting .349 over the last three seasons. She's 11-for-19 in six postseason games thus far.
Connelly is batting .318 with 41 hits, 24 runs, 18 RBI and nine walks. She went 2-for-6 with a walk last weekend in three NCAA playoff games. In 11 postseason games in 2016, Connelly had 12 hits, 11 RBI and four doubles.
Tommie Softball lost twice May 5-6 in the MIAC playoffs: 10-2 to St. Catherine and 6-4 to Hamline, to drop to 34-9 on the season, but a strong schedule helped Coach John Tschida's team receive an at-large spot in the 62-team national field.
The Toms went 9-0 vs. Wisconsin conference teams this spring, including a 10-2 victory over ranked UW-Whitewater and a 3-0 mark against NCAA qualifier UW-La Crosse.
Up and Down
After a 6-3 start, the Toms reeled off 11 victories in a row. After splitting with now No. 25-ranked St. Catherine, sweeping St. Mary's and losing two at Hamline in April, the Toms won 14 of the next 15 and took the conference title by one game.
Two losses on May 6 bumped them from the conference playoffs. But UST went 3-0 in Iowa last weekend.
St. Thomas graduated nine seniors in 2016 from a 43-8 team that reached the eight-team nationals for the second time in three years. The Tommie lineup also took a huge hit for 2017 when All-Region pitcher Kierstin Anderson-Glass was forced to seek a medical hardship for a medical issue.
Anderson-Glass, who also was named the 2016 Conference Pitcher of the Year and Rookie of the Year, led all freshmen pitchers at all 974 NCAA softball programs in Divisions 1, II and III last year in both strikeouts (233) and wins (30). She was 30-5 with two saves and a 1.06 ERA with 233 Ks and just 17 walks. She also hit .374 with 52 hits and 22 RBI in 2016.
St. Thomas has its youngest team yet of the 17-season Tschida era. Its lineup features a junior transfer at pitcher and also starts two seniors, six sophomores and a freshman.
Teamwork has powered this Tommie squad. No UST players received any of the 22 conference Player or Pitcher of the Week awards over nine weeks this season, and balance has been on display.
Defense has also been important, as UST ranks in the top five nationally with a .975 fielding clip (just 33 errors in 46 games). The Tommies have won 19 of their last 20 games when they don't commit an error. At second base, Melissa Barry has just one error in 178 chances.
Junior transfer Sammy Hogan leads the UST pitchers. Hogan is 17-4 with six saves and a 2.60 ERA. Jessica Eppenberger won two games last weekend in Iowa, each time with five-inning relief stints. She improved to 20-4 with a 2.68 ERA.
Besides its defensive excellence, St. Thomas' offense is batting .341 on the season. UST only has 14 home runs -- one of its lowest totals of the Tschida era -- but averages nine hits and more than two walks and two doubles per game.
Did You Know?
In 17 seasons under Coach John Tschida, St. Thomas is 339-6 against conference opponents in games where it has scored four or more runs.
Did You Know, I?
St. Thomas has never had a losing season in the 38-year history of its program.
Did You Know, II?
St. Thomas has never hosted an NCAA regional or Super Regional. Of the 115 all-time postseason victories in school history (conference or NCAA playoffs), just seven were recorded on campus.
The Tommies have claimed 12 of the last 14 regular-season titles and 12 of the 14 playoff crowns contested in the MIAC. They are 152-14 in conference regular-season play since an April 2010 split with St. Mary's.
The program has won 35 or more games in 16 of the last 17 seasons, and 40 wins in 10 of its last 12 seasons.
Now in his 23rd season as a college head coach, John Tschida has reached 894 career wins. Tschida won 207 games in six seasons at St. Mary's, and now has 687 victories in 17 seasons at St. Thomas.
Tschida's .843 winning percentage (894-167 won-loss record) is the best among current or retired college coaches with 10 or more years at any NCAA I, II or III programs.
Tschida is the only coach in NCAA softball to win national titles at two different institutions. He guided St. Mary's to the 2000 championship and won NCAA crowns at St. Thomas in 2004 and 2005. His career record includes a remarkable 101-33 slate in postseason play, including a 41-6 mark in conference playoffs.
Tschida has guided St. Mary's and St. Thomas to 29 of a possible 37 MIAC regular-season and playoff team championships in his 23 seasons. In 17 seasons with the Tommies, his teams have swept 165 conference twinbills, split 18 and were swept just three times, and in all games vs. conference opponents are 390-30. His players have earned 33 NCAA All-America honors, 47 Academic All-America honors, and more than 100 first-team All-MIAC honors.
Tommie softball has competed in the Division III playoffs 19 times in the last 20 seasons and 25 times overall, with NCAA crowns in 2004 and 2005; a runner-up finish in 2006; a fifth place in 2002; a third-place in 2014; and a seventh place in 2016.
St. Thomas softball has a combined MIAC/NCAA postseason record of 114-52.
Tschida coached the 2016 Tommies to a 40-win season for the 10th time in a 12-year span.