28 Teams Head to Las Vegas for MSUB Desert Stinger
Simon Fraser's Cara Lukawesky, last year's GNAC Pitcher of the Year, will make her season debut this Friday in the Desert Stinger.
Simon Fraser's Cara Lukawesky, last year's GNAC Pitcher of the Year, will make her season debut this Friday in the Desert Stinger.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

LAS VEGAS, Nevada - Twenty-eight teams will play a total of 70 games on seven fields over a three-day span, in the fourth annual Montana State University Billings Desert Stinger beginning Friday at Majestic Park.  It is the largest Division II tournament hosted by a single institution.

“This is a year-round planning event,” Desert Stinger tournament director and Director of Rec Activities at MSU Billings, Steve Johnson said. “When the tournament ends, planning for next year’s tournament begins. There are weekly meetings beginning in September, and every little detail of the tournament is discussed. It’s a tremendous project, but we truly enjoy hosting this tournament.”

In the first year of the tournament, the Desert Stinger featured 16 teams from across the western region. It grew by eight teams the second year, and then another four were added last year. The Desert Stinger hopes to continue to grow the field to 32 teams in the near future.

The 2013 field includes teams from 14 states and one Canadian province. Minnesota-Duluth makes the longest trek to North Las Vegas. The Bulldogs leave behind 30-degree weather on a 1,811-mile trip to the desert. Conversely, Dixie State College of Utah makes a two-hour bus ride to the tournament.

Nine schools return to the tournament for the fourth straight season. Along with MSU Billings, Academy of Art (Calif.), Chadron State (Neb.), Dixie State, Fort Lewis (Colo.), Grand Canyon (Ariz.), University of Mary (N.D.), New Mexico Highlands, and Western New Mexico have been in every Desert Stinger tournament.

Four schools, Azusa Pacific (Calif.), Black Hills State (S.D.), Cal State-Dominguez Hills, and West Texas A&M, are making their debut at the Desert Stinger.

“We are excited to be hosting the tournament again,” MSUB head coach Lisa Allen said. “The tournament has grown over the years into a great field of teams and we hope to continue to grow the tournament. The atmosphere at the fields is very intense with all of the spectators that come out for the tournament. It is an honor for this team to host this tournament and we appreciate all the work and support that the MSUB Staff contributes to this tournament.”

Seven teams in this year’s field made the NCAA tournament last season, but only one team in the tournament field appeared in last year’s final NFCA NCAA Div. II Top 25, CSU-Dominguez Hills.

The Toros open this season with the same ranking they ended last season with, No. 11. Led by reigning California Collegiate Athletic Association Coach of the Year in Jim Maier, now in his 13th year as head coach, the Toros concluded their 2012 campaign with a mark of 45-15, including a 27-7 record in CCAA play.

CSUDH welcomes back a strong roster, including four key seniors in All-Region selections in 3B Jessica Hall and SP Stephanie Jimenez along with All-CCAA selections in SP Lauren Harper and SS Christina Chavez, who also earned the CCAA Newcomer of the Year nod.

Dixie State enters this season ranked No. 24 in the country. The Red Storm was picked second in the Pac West Conference preseason coaches’ poll, but claimed four first-place votes. Dixie State wound up with the most players on the preseason squad with three. Mattie Snow was named the PacWest Preseason Pitcher of the Year. The junior received the most votes among hurlers to warrant being named to the All-PacWest Preseason Team. Courtney Sherwin and Marla Reiter were named to the Preseason All-PacWest Team.

In the tournament’s lone game between ranked teams, No. 11 Cal State-Dominguez Hills meets 24th-ranked Dixie State in Game 39 on Field 4 at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Three other teams, including host Montana State Billings, received votes in the national preseason poll. The Yellowjackets open 2013 with five votes, while Grand Canyon and Texas A&M both had two votes. MSU Billings welcomes back seven All-Great Northwest Athletic Conference performers this season, including first teamers, Rose Harrington and Nicole Wilkerson.

Grand Canyon tied Dixie State in the PacWest Conference preseason poll in second place. The Antelopes are led by Kelsey Barak. Barak had a superb rookie season in earning both the 2012 PacWest Player and Freshman of the Year awards and making the All-PacWest first team as a shortstop. She was named the preseason conference Player of the Year.

West Texas A&M was picked third in the Lone Star Conference preseason poll after going 35-18 last season. Meghan Slattery is Division II's all-time career leader in grand slams. The senior has six slams in her career.

Montana State Billings, Dixie State, and Fort Lewis all claimed their respective conference titles a season ago. The Pac West Conference has the most wins in the tournament’s history with 41, while the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference has appeared in the most games with 105.

The 2013 Desert Stinger field has representatives from six conferences across the West including, the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (6), the California Collegiate Athletic Association (3), the Lone Star Conference (1), the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (4), the Pacific West Conference (6) and the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (8).

Along with the Yellowjackets, Central Washington, Northwest Nazarene, Simon Fraser, Western Oregon and Western Washington will all be at the tournament to represent the GNAC.

Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference sends the largest contingent of teams. Colorado Mines, Fort Lewis, Metro State, UC-Colorado Springs, New Mexico Highlands, Chadron State, Western New Mexico, and Black Hills State all represent the 14-team conference.

“This is a truly special event,” Montana State Billings’ interim athletic director Krista Montague said. “We are very pleased to host this tournament. It’s not just a great thing for the school, but for the Great Northwest Athletic Conference and the entire West Region. It’s a lot of work, but we are glad to do it. We welcome all of the teams, and want to thank them for participating. Of course, we have to thank the tournament staff, umpires, and local help we get there. This tournament couldn’t happen without them.”

The tournament begins Friday. Seven games are all played at once, with game times of 11:30 a.m., 2 p.m., 4:30 p.m., and 7 p.m. the first two days, and 11:30 and 2 p.m. on Sunday.   

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