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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