GREENWOOD, IN - The 2013 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference softball tournament will take place this weekend at Manchester University. The host Spartans earned the regular season championship after going 11-3, earning the school's first ever HCAC softball title. Anderson, Bluffton, and Franklin will join Manchester this weekend.
The host Spartans (19-13, 11-3 HCAC) will look to capture their first HCAC tournament title since 2001. Manchester held a 2-2 record against the competition they will face this weekend and did not face Bluffton due to weather. The Spartans offense has been solid this season, averaging .323 at the plate with nine home runs and 88 runs scored in 14 conference tilts. The MU pitching staff ranks seventh in the HCAC, boasting a 4.25 ERA with 48 strikeouts. Manchester has won six of 10 games heading into tournament play.
The offense has been propelled by the efforts of freshman Kalie Niezgodski (South Bend, Ind./Clay). The freshman currently ranks eighth in the conference with a .417 batting average and leads the HCAC with five home runs, 33 total bases, and a .917 slugging percentage in league play. Sophomore pitcher Maureen Lund (Huntington, Ind./North) has led the pitching staff the entire season. The sophomore holds a record of 6-0 in league play with a 2.98 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 40.0 innings of work.
Anderson (22-14, 12-4 HCAC) placed second in the standings after a successful season. The Ravens posted a 3-3 record against the teams in the tournament field this season. Anderson's offense has been the best in the HCAC this season, ranking first in batting (.368), runs scored (107), triples (5) and stolen bases (39). AU's pitching staff has been the top staff in the HCAC this spring, posting a 2.47 ERA during league play. Freshman Sami Frazier (Greenfield, Ind./H.S.) leads the team with five wins and boasts the conference's best ERA at 0.17. Frazier has also struck out 35 batters in 41.1 innings of work.
Bluffton (17-17, 9-5 HCAC) enters the league tournament as the No. 3 seed this weekend. The Beavers finished 1-3 against the tournament competition this spring. Freshman Ashley Knippen (Wapakoneta, Ohio/H.S.) leads the team at the plate, batting .444 with 14 runs scored, six doubles, and 13 RBI during league play. As a team, Bluffton's offense ranks second in the league with a .329 batting average and 101 runs scored, while leading the HCAC with 10 home runs.
Franklin (15-25, 9-7 HCAC) returns to the HCAC tournament for the first time since 2006. The Grizzlies are the only team in the tournament field with a winning record against their fellow competition (4-2). Freshman McKensie Vanosdol (North Vernon, Ind./Jennings Co.) leads the Grizzlies with three home runs and 19 RBI, while batting .345 with 15 runs scored. Vanosdol has also posted a 3-5 record in the circle with 32 strikeouts in 59.0 innings of work.
Action will get underway from Manchester at 10:00 AM Friday morning as No. 2 seed Anderson faces No. 3 seed Bluffton. Top seed Manchester and No. 4 Franklin will tangle at 12:00 PM in the second opening round game.
Friday, May 3
Game 1: #3 Bluffton vs. #2 Anderson
Game 2: #4 Franklin vs. #1 Manchester
Game 3: Bluffton vs. Manchester
Game 4: Anderson vs. Franklin
Saturday, May 4
Game 5: Manchester vs. Franklin
Game 6: Anderson vs. Winner Game 5
Game 7: If needed