The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics has announced the pool play schedule for the 31st Annual NAIA Softball National Championship tournament, and the Reinhardt University softball team’s first game is against the Simon Fraser University Clan, the defending NAIA national champions.
Held from Thursday, May 19 through Wednesday, May 25 at the Gulf Shores (Ala.) Sportsplex, the event includes 32 squads. The Gulf Shores and Orange Beach (Ala.) Sports Commission, in conjunction with the University of Mobile (Ala.), hosts the annual event for the first time in Gulf Shores.
The 32 qualifiers all play three games in pool play between Thursday, May 19 and Saturday, May 21 (one contest each day). There are eight pools composed of four teams each, with the pool winners advancing to an eight-team double-elimination bracket that will be played out between Monday, May 23 and Wednesday, May 25. There are four fields with four games each day during pool play action.
Reinhardt has posted a 40-8 overall record in 2011 and is ranked 13th nationally in the NAIA. Riding a school-record 18-game winning streak, the Lady Eagles open tournament play next Thursday at 12:30 p.m. Central time (1:30 p.m. Eastern) when taking on Simon Fraser from Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada. The Clan, rated No. 23 in the nation, are just 14-23 overall, but have long been an NAIA power. While Reinhardt is making its first trip to the NAIA national event, SFU is making its 15th appearance. Simon Fraser has captured NAIA national championships in 2010, 2005, 2003 and 1999. The Clan has compiled a record of 59-23 at the NAIA Softball National Championship.
As part of Pool G, the Lady Eagles face the Simpson University Lady Red Hawks from Redding, Calif., next Friday at 5 p.m. Central time (6 p.m. Eastern). Like Reinhardt, Simpson is also a first-time participant at the NAIA nationals. The Lady Red Hawks are 28-16 overall and received 20 points in this week’s NAIA poll to rank tied for 35th in the country.
The Lady Eagles’ final pool play contest is next Saturday at 2:30 p.m. Central time (3:30 p.m. Eastern) vs. the Lubbock (Texas) Christian University Lady Chaparrals, who are 50-9 overall and rated No. 7 nationally. Lubbock Christian earned its fourth berth in the national tournament and claimed the 2008 NAIA national title. The Lady Chaparrals’ all-time record at the event is 14-4.
Reinhardt, under two-time Appalachian Athletic Conference Coach-of-the-Year Glen Crawford, received an automatic bid to the 2011 NAIA Softball National Championship after winning the AAC Tournament crown. The Lady Eagles also went 14-0 in conference play to garner their second straight AAC regular season championship.
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