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Softball Heads to South Bend for NCAA Regional Play

CEsLRzLW0AAxkkkThe Ball State softball team learned it would be traveling to the South Bend Regional to open play in the 2015 NCAA Division I Softball Championships, the NCAA announced Sunday night on ESPNU.

The Cardinals (33-23), the Mid-American Conference Tournament Champions, will open the South Bend Regional with a game versus in-state rival and No. 16 seed Notre Dame (40-13). The other half of the bracket features Northwestern (28-21) out of the Big Ten and Kentucky (29-24) out of the Southeastern Conference.

The 64-team championship field was selected from 283 NCAA Division I institutions sponsoring the sport of softball. Of the 64 teams, 32 received automatic qualification as conference champions with the remaining best 32 teams selected on an at-large basis. Sixteen teams were seeded and each of the seeded teams will be placed at one of the regional sites.

The tournament opens with 16 four-team double-elimination regionals held at campus sites May 15-17. The 16 regional champions advance to the best-of-three Super Regionals, which will also be held at eight campus sites May 21-24. The eight Super Regional champions punch tickets to the 2015 NCAA Women’s College World Series, which will be held at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium – OGE Energy Field in Oklahoma City, May 28 to June 3.

Ball State will be making its third appearance in the NCAA Division I Softball Championships and first since the 2010 season. The Cardinals’ first NCAA Championship appearance came in 1998, when Ball State suffered losses to Michigan (12-1 in 5) and Illinois-Chicago (6-1) in Ann Arbor. Ball State traveled to the Knoxville Regional in 2010, falling to host Tennessee (5-0) and Louisville (5-1).

The Cardinals advanced to the NCAA Championship by winning last week’s MAC Tournament with a perfect 4-0 record in the event. Ball State senior outfielder Hanne Stuedemann was named the tournament’s MVP after hitting .462 (6-for-13) over Ball State’s four games, including a pair of home runs. In the championship game, Stuedemann went 3-for-4 with two runs scored and four RBI, including a three-run home run in the fifth inning.

Junior pitcher Nicole Steinbach and junior second baseman Emily Dabkowski also earned spots on the MAC All-Tournament Team. Steinbach went a perfect 4-0 in the circle, allowing just seven earned runs over 21.2 innings of work. Dabkowski hit .333 (5-for-15) over Ball State’s four games, including two home runs, while driving in six runs and scoring five times.

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