Three GNAC Teams Advance To NCAA Softball Championship
Concordia, which earned the GNAC automatic berth to the NCAA Championship, is in the Division II postseason for the first time. Photo by Phillip Sedgwick.
Concordia, which earned the GNAC automatic berth to the NCAA Championship, is in the Division II postseason for the first time. Photo by Phillip Sedgwick.

Monday, May 6, 2019

INDIANAPOLIS – For the first time in conference history, the GNAC will be represented by three teams in the NCAA Division II Softball Championship.

Central Washington, Concordia and Western Oregon were all selected for the tournament field, announced on on Monday morning.

No. 5 seed Western Oregon and No. 8 seed Concordia were slotted into the West 1 Regional bracket, which will be played at No. 1 seed Concordia-Irvine in Irvine, California, beginning on Thursday. The Cavaliers will play their No. 1 seeded namesakes in the opening round while the Wolves will be paired with No. 4 seed San Francisco State.

Central Washington, the region’s No. 7 seed, will head to La Jolla, California and the West 2 Regional bracket, where it will play No. 2 seed UC San Diego on Thursday.

Concordia received the conference’s automatic berth the NCAA Division II Championships after winning the GNAC Championships. Picked to finish last in the GNAC Preseason Coaches Poll, the Cavaliers finished the regular season by winning seven of their last nine games. In the GNAC Championships, the Cavaliers did not allow an earned run until the second game of the final round on Saturday before pulling off the 5-4 win over Central Washington.

The Cavaliers enter the NCAA Championships with a 31-22 overall record. They are led by First Team All-GNAC and GNAC Championships MVP Hannah Self, who is hitting .343 with 13 home runs and a .720 slugging percentage. Junior Sally Bowles leads the pitching staff with a 2.90 earned run average while Mckenzie Smith has a 16-8 record and a 3.30 earned run average while also hitting .301.

The GNAC regular-season champion, Central Washington is in the NCAA Championship for the first time since 2016 and for the fifth time in program history. The Wildcats clinched the regular-season title with a 21-7 record, the most conference wins for a GNAC team since 2012. The team went 11-4 to end the regular season and went 3-2 in the GNAC Championships, falling to Concordia in the finals.

Central Washington enters the national tournament with a 33-18 record. The Wildcats feature nine players hitting .300 or better. First Team All-GNAC selection Savannah Egbert leads the way with a .429 batting average, 76 hits and 23 stolen bases. Lexie Strasser enters the tournament with a 17-11 record and a 2.66 earned run average. She pitched all but four innings for the Wildcats in the GNAC Championships.

Western Oregon will make its third NCAA Championships appearance in program history and its first since 2014. The Wolves used solid pitching to secure the No. 2 seed in the GNAC Championships, finishing the regular season by winning six straight games. The Wolves went 0-2 in the conference tournament despite a pair of outstanding pitching performances by Haley Fabian and Maddie Mayer.

Mayer, the GNAC Freshman of the Year, leads the staff with a 2.46 earned run average and a 10-4 record. Fabian has a 2.70 ERA and a 13-4 mark. As a team, Western Oregon owns a .266 opponent batting average. First Team All-GNAC selection Ayanna Arceneaux leads the GNAC with a .481 batting average. In 129 at-bats, Arceneaux has struck out just six times.