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OLLU Softball Faces Cottey College in NAIA Opening Round

OLLU Softball Faces Cottey College in NAIA Opening Round

SAN ANTONIO (May 11, 2024) – Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) is busy this weekend getting everything ready for the NAIA Softball National Championship Opening Round that begins on Monday. The top-seed Saints will face fourth-seed Cottey College on the tournament's first day at 6:30 p.m. The game is preceded by the matchup between second-seed Hope International University and third-seed Evangel University at 4 p.m. The three-day tournament is held at the St. Mary's University Softball Field, less than three miles from OLLU's campus.

Head Coach Bruce Lenington commented, "The exciting part of this time of year is that everyone has the same record, same ranking and same goal. Our players are ready to compete and leave it all on the field."

Saints overview

The Saints are 50-3 on the season and were runners-up in the Red River Athletic Conference (RRAC) Championship Tournament after capturing the regular-season title with a perfect 24-0 record. This year, they received the No. 1 rank in every regular-season NAIA Softball Coaches' Poll.

After losing to Central Washington in early February, the Saints went on a 45-game win streak before losing twice to LSU-Alexandria in the conference tournament.

The Saints are led by Cassandra Valdez, who has 57 runs, four triples, 14 home runs, 42 walks and 28 stolen bases. She also leads the team in OBP with .529 and SLG with .824. Kayla Dreese leads the Saints in hits with 56, in doubles with 13 and batting average with .427. Natalie Rodriguez leads the team in 44 RBIs.

Cassandra Valdez has an ERA of 0.67, which is the second-best in the NAIA. She has logged nine shutouts, three saves and a record of 23-1. She has 228 strikeouts. Ava Hernandez has an ERA of 1.41 with a record of 19-2. She has eight shutouts and 99 strikeouts.

Overall, the team stats are as follows:

49 games (four were forfeit wins, so 53), 1192 at-bats, 333 runs, 432 hits, 85 doubles, 13 triples, 49 home runs, 146 walks, 119 stolen bases and 92 strikeouts. Their team ERA is 0.97 (second best in the NAIA), and their fielding percentage is .980 (first in the NAIA).

Head Coach Bruce Lenington is in his fifth year with the Saints encompassing an overall record of 184-56. His first season was canceled due to COVID-19, and in 2021, his team finished as RRAC semifinalists. In 2022, the Saints won the regular and postseason, and played in the NAIA Opening Round. Last year, Lenington's team was the regular and postseason champions, won the NAIA Opening Round title and played in the program's first-ever NAIA World Series.

Comets overview

The Comets won the American Midwest Conference Championship as the fourth seed after winning all five postseason games, earning an automatic bid to the NAIA Opening Round. They finished the regular season with an 11-7 conference record and are now 31-19 overall.

Cottey, located in Nevada, Mo., played RRAC members LSU-Alexandria this season, losing both matchups 6-4 and 21-14. The Comets also won 4-3 against Texas A&M University – Texarkana, lost 8-7 against the University of Houston-Victoria and lost 8-0 against Louisiana Christian University.

The Comets are led by Lauren Johnson and Karina Ramirez, who each have 46 runs. Johnson leads the team in hits with 57, doubles with 15, triples with four, home runs with 11, RBIs with 49, walks with 25, OBP with .396, and SLG with .785. Ramirez leads the team in hits with 61 and stolen bases with 56.

On the pitching side, the Comets are led by Brook Vicory, who has a record of 10-3 and an ERA of 3.22. Amelia Gassman has the most strikeouts, with 84.

Overall, the team stats are as follows:

50 games, 1342 at-bats, 306 runs, 444 hits, 82 doubles, 11 triples, 41 home runs, 160 walks, 112 stolen bases and 204 strikeouts. Their team ERA is 3.82, and the fielding percentage is .967.

Cottey's head coach, Rebekah Klinginsmith, joined the team in September 2023. The team qualified for the NAIA Opening Round in 2023, 2022 and 2021.

Tournament details

Day two will feature the loser of game one and the loser of game two (Game Three) at noon, followed by the winner of game one and the winner of game two (Game Four) at 2:30 p.m. and the winner of game three vs. the loser of game four (Game Five) at 5 p.m. On May 15, the winner of game four will play the winner of game five at noon, and an "if necessary" game will take place at 2:30 p.m.

The San Antonio Bracket is one of only two brackets featuring four teams; the eight remaining host cities will feature five teams. The winners of each bracket will advance to the 43rd Annual NAIA Softball National Championship, which will be held May 23-29 at the South Commons Complex in Columbus, Ga.

For information on the tournament, including links to stats and live-streaming, photos and purchasing advanced tickets, visit the NAIA Opening Round Page.