May 17, 2012
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - For the first time since 2009 and the third time in school history, the Miami University softball team is in the NCAA Tournament. The RedHawks were selected to the Knoxville Regional where they will take on host, no. 7 national seed and fifth-ranked Tennessee on Friday at 6 p.m. Also selected to the double elimination regional were Virginia Tech and UAB. Those two teams will open the tournament on Friday at 3:30 p.m. If Miami can defeat the Lady Volunteers, its next game would be against the winner of the game between the Hokies and the Blazers on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. If the RedHawks lose, they will face the loser of the first game in an elimination game on Saturday at 4 p.m. The tournament will conclude with the championship game(s) on Sunday starting at 1:30 p.m.
BLOGGING THE GAMES: Similar to the MAC Tournament, live blogs will be available on MURedHawks.com for every NCAA Tournament game Miami participates in. The format will be slightly different, as NCAA rules do not allow for a straight play-by-play account of the game. These blogs will encourage viewer participation, with score updates, descriptions of great plays and frequent answering of any question fans might have.
INTRODUCING THE MIAMI REDHAWK SOFTBALL TEAM: The Miami University softball team enters the NCAA Tournament with a record of 40-18. They won the Mid-American Conference East Division and were second overall with a 16-6 record. The 40 wins and 16 MAC wins both set single-season school records. The team had success early, winning the Blues City Classic and its own Miami Invitational. The RedHawks had three winning streaks during the season of six-or-more games and won five straight games in two days to win the MAC Tournament after dropping their opening game to Central Michigan on Thursday. That included winning three games on Saturday, defeating Western Michigan, 3-1, and then shutting out CMU twice by scores of 2-0 and 4-0.
Miami is led in the circle by senior Jessica Simpson with a 31-13 record and a 1.06 ERA. The 31 wins, along with her 346 strikeouts are both single-season school records, breaking the records she set last season. She won the MAC Pitcher of the Year for the second consecutive season, and was named the MAC Tournament MVP. At the MAC Tournament she passed the 100-win mark and recorded her 1,000th career strikeout. She is the all-time winningest pitcher in MAC history. Simpson, who is 101-58 with a 1.58 ERA and 1,009 strikeouts for her career, holds nearly every Miami pitching record.
Miami is also a strong hitting team with a team batting average of .284. Seven players are batting .285 or higher for the Red and White. Freshman outfielder Shanyn McIntyre, a Second Team All-MAC, MAC All-Freshman and MAC All-Tournament Team selection leads the way with a .352 batting average, while senior Daniela Torres is the top power threat with seven home runs and 30 RBI on the season. Senior Jordan McElroy, the winner of the Nan Harvey Sportsmanship Award from the MAC, is also a key run producer. She is hitting .295 with 29 RBI on the season.
Defensively, the RedHawks sport a .961 fielding percentage. Sophomore catcher Kayla Ledbetter, a Second-Team All-MAC and MAC All-Tournament Team selection, has a strong arm, allowing only 18 successful steals on her this season.
SIMPSON NEAR TOP IN SEVERAL NATIONAL CATEGORIES: senior pitcher Jessica Simpson is an All-America candidate after her record-setting season. She tied her own MAC record from last season by being named MAC East Division Pitcher of the Week seven times. She led the conference in nearly every pitching statistical category. She is also highly ranked in several national statistics. Her 1.06 ERA ranks third in the country, while her 31 victories ranks fourth. Simpson's 346 strikeouts puts her third in the nation, while her 12 shutouts ranks sixth.
TEAM RECORDS BROKEN THIS SEASON: As a team, Miami broke several single-season records in 2012. Offensively, the RedHawks have scored 255 runs this year, which is 20 more than the previous record of 235, set in 1991. The 221 RBI are also a single-season record. Miami has 70 stolen bases as a team, breaking by one a record set two seasons ago in 2010. The 184 walks that the Red and White have drawn shatters the previous record of 150 that was set in both 2007 and 2010. In the circle, Miami has thrown 18 shutouts on the year, breaking the record of 17 that was set last season. Its .690 winning percentage (40-18) bests the previous record of .654 (34-18 in 1991).
ALL-TIME WINNINGEST COACH: Head Coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly became Miami's all-time winningest coach with a 4-0 victory over Central Michigan on Apr. 20. She broke the record of 172 wins set by her immediate predecessor Angie Jacobs. Schoenly is now 187-150-1 in six seasons in charge of the RedHawks. The team has won 30-plus games in each of the past four seasons. Miami had only achieved 30-win seasons in back-to-back campaigns before Schoenly's arrival. She also engineered the first 40-win campaign in school history in 2012.
AMAZING SENIOR CLASS: The five-member Class of 2012 is the most successful class of Miami softball players all-time. Going into the weekend, Casey Drees, Jordan McElroy, Katie Osburn, Jessica Simpson and Daniela Torres have won 138 games during their four-year career. That is already 17 more victories than the previous record-holding Class of 2011. They helped lead the RedHawks to MAC Tournament Championships in 2009 and 2012, the first class to earn two rings. They boast the two-time defending MAC Pitcher of the Year and have combined to earn seven All-MAC honors.
NCAA TOURNAMENT HISTORY: This is the third time Miami has reached the NCAA Tournament. In 2005, the RedHawks were assigned to the Knoxville Regional where they fell to Tennessee, 9-0, in five innings and then were eliminated by Virginia Tech, 4-1. In 2009, Miami was assigned to the Ann Arbor Regional. The RedHawks took an early, 3-2, lead on the host Michigan Wolverines, but the game was halted in the third inning tied at three due to rain. Picking it up the next day, the Michigan offense got hot and went on to win 11-3 in six innings. The Red and White then faced Cleveland State, where Simpson would led the team to its first NCAA Tournament victory, a 5-4 win over the Vikings. A play at the plate as CSU tried to score the tying run gave Miami the win. The RedHawks then took on Notre Dame immediately after in their third game of the day. Miami fought hard after falling behind, 5-1, early, but eventually was eliminated by a 5-3 score.
GOOD LUCK CHARMS: If you look carefully, you might see one of the keys to the RedHawks' season in 2012. Miami has three gnomes that guard the dugout during all games and, according to the team, have helped them become successful. Jerry is the hitting gnome and he has a red hat. Jack is the fielding gnome and he has an orange hat. Finally, Jerome is the pitching gnome and he wears a green hat.
ABOUT TENNESSEE: Tennessee is 46-10 overall. The Lady Vols finished the regular season ranked fifth in the nation, and were awards the seventh overall seed in the NCAA Tournament by the selection committee. They went 22-6 in the Southeastern Conference and advance to the semifinals of the SEC Tournament, where they fell to Florida, 2-1. Tennessee is very solid offensively, hitting .301 as a team. It is led offensively by leadoff hitter Raven Chavanne. One of the fastest players in the entire nation, she is a slapper who has hit .435 on the year. She often gets on via infield hits. The Lady Vols have power hitters as well. Junior infielder Lauren Gibson hits .321 with 13 home runs and 43 RBI. In the circle, Tennessee has two strong pitchers in the Renfroe sisters. Ellen, a sophomore, is 27-3 overall with a 1.21 ERA in 41 appearances (31 starts). She has 269 strikeouts on the year. Her older sister Ivy, a junior, is 19-7 overall with a 1.94 ERA in 33 appearances (25 starts).
SERIES WITH TENNESSEE: Tennessee leads the all-time series, 5-1. The teams last met in the 2005 season when the RedHawks were also placed in the Knoxville Regional. In that game, the Lady Vols came away with a 9-0, five-inning victory.
ABOUT VIRGINIA TECH: Virginia Tech is 40-19 overall. It received votes in the final ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 Poll. The Hokies went 12-8 in the Atlantic Coast Conference and advanced to the championship of the ACC Tournament, defeating Maryland in the quarterfinals, 5-2, and North Carolina in the semifinals, 4-1, before falling to Georgia Tech in the championship game, 9-1, in five innings. Virginia Tech is led offensively by junior first baseman Courtney Liddle. She is hitting .313 with eight home runs and 34 RBI on the season. Tech hits .246 as a team, but has a powerful lineup that has hit 46 home runs on the season. In the circle, the Hokies are led by junior Jasmin Harrell. She is 29-14 overall with a 1.90 ERA in 47 appearances (36 starts).
SERIES WITH VIRGINIA TECH: Miami is 1-6 all-time against Virginia Tech. The RedHawks also faced the Hokies in the NCAA Knoxville Regional in 2005. Tech defeated Miami, 4-1, to end its season. The two teams also met earlier this season on Mar. 10 in Clearwater, Fla. The RedHawks held an early 2-0 lead, but fell behind, 4-2. Miami scored two runs in the top of the seventh to send it to extra innings. Using the international tiebreaker rule, both teams scored in the ninth inning. The Hokies were able to bring another run home in the 10th to secure a 6-5 win.
ABOUT UAB: The University of Alabama at Birmingham is 37-20 overall. The Blazers went 17-7 in Conference USA and advanced to the semifinals of the C-USA Tournament. They defeated Memphis, 2-0, in the quarterfinals before falling to Marshall, 3-2, in 10 innings in the semifinal round. UAB is led offensively by senior catcher Mandy Lowman. She is hitting .350 with 11 home runs and 36 RBI. In the circle, its top pitcher is sophomore lefthander Lannah Campbell. She is 15-6 overall with a 1.50 ERA in 31 appearances (21 starts). The Blazers regularly use three pitchers in their rotation, with Leigh Streetman having made 20 starts and Amber Torres having started 12 games.
SERIES WITH UAB: Miami has won the only game between the two schools. It took place on Feb. 26, 2006 in Chattanooga, Tenn. in the final game of the Panera Classic. The RedHawks broke a 3-3 tie with four runs in the top of the seventh to secure a 7-3 win. Halle Popson, who owns many of Miami's hitting records, was 3-for-4 with three RBI and two runs scored in that game.
UP NEXT FOR MIAMI: Miami needs to win the Knoxville Regional to continue its season. If it is able to do so, it will advance to face the winner of the Athens (University of Georgia hosts) Regional in the Super Regional round which takes place May 24-27.