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Softball gets No.1 seed, starts NCAAs Thursday morning

Photo by Millie York
Photo by Millie York

No. 3-ranked Tommie Softball has been selected as the top seed for this week's eight-team NCAA Division III Championships in Tyler, Texas. 

For pairings purposes, St. Thomas received the top seed, with Illinois Wesleyan as No. 2 and Emory (Ga.) No. 3 on the opposite side of the bracket. The Linfield (Ore.) vs. Texas Lutheran Super Regional winner will be the No. 4 seed, with Williams (Mass.) No. 5.  

The NFCA poll's Nos. 1 and 2 ranked teams -- defending national champ Virginia Wesleyan and East Texas Baptist -- were beaten out in the opening weekend of the NCAA playoffs. Six of the eight teams in the field were ranked in the top 20 of the last national poll.

St. Thomas, the winner of 28 of its last 29 games, has the best remaining won-loss record among the eight qualifiers at 43-5. That includes a 5-0 NCAA playoff run so far where it has outscored three different teams over five games by a 25-1 margin.

Coach John Tschida's Tommies start the double-elimination tournament with an 11 a.m. game Thursday against unranked Eastern Connecticut State (34-11), winner of nine in a row.

This is the second trip to nationals for the current St. Thomas seniors. It's the seventh overall trip for St. Thomas in the 19-year coaching era of John Tschida. The Tommies placed fifth in 2002; were NCAA champions in 2004 and 2005; took second in 2006; took third in 2014: and tied for seventh in 2016.

Eastern Connecticut has a younger team with just three seniors but a veteran coach in Dina Pepin, who has taken the Warriors to the national finals 10 times in her 18 seasons and three times this decade.


Thursday's Games

Game 1, 11 a.m.: Eastern Connecticut State (8) vs. St. Thomas (1) 

Game 2, 1:30 p.m.: Williams (5) vs. Texas Lutheran (4)

Game 3, 4 p.m.: Trine (7) vs. Illinois Wesleyan (2)

Game 4, 6:30 p.m.: Randolph-Macon (6) vs. Emory (3)