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Regional Tournament Awaits PLU Softball Team

THIS WEEKEND: Pacific Lutheran makes its first NCAA Division III softball postseason appearance since 2003 when the Lutes face Huntingdon (Ala.) in a first round game of the Tyler, Texas Regional at 4 p.m. (CDT) Friday. The games will be played at UT-Tyler Ballpark. The double-elimination regional tournament features seven teams and three (or four, in case of weather delay) days of action, with the regional champion booking a ticket to the Division III national championship tournament scheduled for May 18-22 at the Moyer Complex in Salem, Va.

OTHER REGIONAL TOURNAMENTS: In addition to the Tyler Regional, NCAA Division III regionals will be hosted this weekend by Alma College in Alma, Mich., Amherst College in Amherst, Mass., Central College in Pella, Iowa, Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va., Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic, Conn., Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Ill., and Kean University in Union, N.J. Each of the eight regional tournament champions will advance to the national tournament in Salem, Va.

FOLLOW THE TOURNAMENT ACTION: Lutes fans interested in listening to the PLU audio webcast can do so by clicking here. UT-Tyler provides a video stream and live stats that can be accessed by clicking here. UT-Tyler's tournament web site can be accessed by clicking here.

FAMILIARITY BREEDS...WELL, FAMILIARITY: One of the advantages for the Lutes being sent to the Tyler Regional is that they are quite familiar with the surroundings. PLU played two doubleheaders at the UT-Tyler facility during their 10-game swing through Texas in late March.

HOW THE LUTES GOT THERE: Not giving the NCAA Division III national tournament selection committee an opportunity to deal out heartbreak as it did a year ago, Pacific Lutheran punched its own ticket to NCAA postseason play Sunday by winning the Northwest Conference softball tournament title on Sunday, April 22, in McMinnville, Ore. Senior Stacey Hagensen shut down the tournament host, No. 1-ranked and defending national champion Linfield Wildcats, limiting the prolific offensive machine to just two hits in a 3-0 whitewash at Del Smith Field. With the win, the Lutes earned the NWC's automatic bid into Division III postseason play. Linfield later received an at-large bid and will play at the Bloomington, Illinois Regional hosted by Illinois Wesleyan University.

REGIONAL FIRST ROUND MATCHUPS: Pacific Lutheran, 37-11 this season, will face Huntingdon (Ala.), 28-13, in its NCAA Division III softball regional round opener at 4 p.m. (CDT) on Friday. The other side of PLU's bracket has Redlands (Calif.), 31-11, playing Birmingham-Southern (Ala.), 34-9. Other teams in the seven-team regional tournament include No. 1 seed and tournament host Texas-Tyler, 36-7, which has a first-round bye before meeting the winner of the regional's opening game between Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (Calif.), 28-13, and Louisiana College, also 28-13. Games will continue through Sunday, and because this is a seven-team tournament there are several variations of schedules that could come into play. No matter the outcome of its regional tournament opener against Huntingdon, PLU will play its second game on Saturday.

PREVIOUS MEETINGS: Pacific Lutheran has never faced Birmingham-Southern or Louisiana College. However, PLU has met with Huntingdon, its opening-round opponent, four times dating back to the 1991 season. The programs have split the four games, however, Pacific Lutheran may hold the upper hand in the series after winning a NAIA national tournament semifinal match up en route to the team's 1992 national title. In addition, the Lutes have won four of five games played against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, including a 3-2 win in the most recent meeting in 2010. PLU is 6-6 in 12 total games against Redlands, including a 3-3 split since 2009. Playing at Redlands, the Lutes and the Bulldogs each won a game in doubleheaders played in 2009, 2010 and 2011. Pacific Lutheran's only games against UT-Tyler came on March 29 of this year when the teams split a doubleheader at the end of the Lutes' 10-games-in-six-days Texas road trip. PLU won the opening game, 3-2 in eight innings, before the Patriots took a 7-0 decision in the final contest.

CONNECTING PLU AND HUNTINGDON TO THE SEC: As previously mentioned, PLU and Huntingdon squared off in the NAIA national semifinal in the 1992 season. PLU was led that season by head coach Ralph Weekly. On the other side of the diamond, Tina Deese was in her fifth season as head coach at Huntingdon. Now, 20 years later, Weekly and Deese are coaching at the Division I level. Thursday afternoon, Weekly will lead his University of Tennessee Volunteers out on the field to face Deese's Auburn University Tigers in the first-round of the SEC Tournament in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Earlier this season, Tennessee swept a three-game series from Auburn.       

BRIEF SYNOPSIS OF THE REGIONAL TOURNAMENT TEAMS:

No. 1 Seed - Texas-Tyler: 37-6 overall record, American Southwest Conference champions, automatic qualifier to Division III tournament, No. 7 ranking in the NFCA poll. Top players: Ashley Endsley, junior infielder, .412 average, 10 HR, 49 RBI; Katelyn Thomason, junior utility, .437 average, 3 HR, 42 RBI, 13-3 record, 1.85 earned run average, 98 1/3 IP; Heather Abshire, junior utility, .390 average, 32 RBI, 19-3 record, 1.57 earned run average, 18 complete games, 129 2/3 IP; Joey Cronin, junior utility, .417, 4 HR, 30 RBI, 14 steals.

No. 2 Seed - Pacific Lutheran: 37-11 record, Northwest Conference tournament champions, automatic qualifier, defeated defending national champion Linfield in the NWC tournament title game, No. 4 in the NFCA poll. Top players: Kaaren Hatlen, junior utility/designated player, 47 starts, .449 average, nine homers, 51 RBI, 13-4 record, 2.90 earned run average, 82.0 IP; Stacey Hagensen, senior pitcher/outfielder, .380 average, 5 HR, 33 RBI, 20-5 record, 1.11 earned run average, 17 complete games, 158 1/3 IP; Montessa Califano, junior outfielder, .370 average, three triples; Amanda Hall, junior first baseman, .368 average, 4 HR, 36 RBI; Lindsey Matsunaga, sophomore shortstop, .263 average, 6 HR, 34 RBI; Amanda Goings, senior outfielder, .323 average, 22 steals.

No. 3 Seed - Redlands: 31-11 record, Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, at-large qualifier, lost to Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in the SCIAC tournament title game, No. 13 ranking in the NFCA poll. Top players: Amanda Lievanos, sophomore outfielder, .484 average, 13 HR, 14 doubles, .898 slugging percentage, 57 RBI; Kayla Uphold, junior pitcher/utility, .430 average, 25 RBI, 19-4 record, 2.55 ERA, 70 strikeouts, 143.0 IP; Amanda Clark, sophomore infielder, .425 average, 12 steals; Rikki Scates, senior infielder, .389 average, 6 HR, 35 RBI; Breanna Ruelas, senior pitcher, 11-6 record, 2.75 ERA, 95 2/3 IP.

No. 4 Seed - Louisiana College: 28-13 record, American Southwest Conference, at-large qualifier, Lost to Texas-Tyler in the ASC championship game. Making eighth straight NCAA tournament appearance. Top players: Daniele Wilson, junior shortstop, .370 average, 7 HR, 37 RBI; Meggie Burkett, junior utility, .365 average, 15 steals; Devan Greene, senior third baseman, .339 average, 23 RBI; Rudi Aycock, sophomore pitcher, Leslie Eastham, junior pitcher, and Jordan Waldroup, junior pitcher, all appeared in more than 15 games and accounted for 85 percent of the team's innings pitched.

No. 5 Seed - Claremont Mudd-Scripps: 28-13 record, Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament champions, automatic qualifier, defeated Redlands in the SCIAC championship game, No. 17 ranking in the NFCA poll. Top players: Emily Lopez, senior infielder, .387 average, 7 HR, 35 RBI; Harmony Palmer, junior infielder, .362 average, 30 RBI, 12 steals; Rebecca King, senior catcher, .330, 4 HR, 36 RBI; Hayley Schultz, freshman pitcher, 16-10 record, 1.70 ERA, 109 strikeouts, 168 2/3 IP; Rebecca Gularte, senior pitcher, 12-3 record, 2.78 ERA, 93.0 IP.

No. 6 Seed - Birmingham-Southern: 34-9 record, Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference champions, automatic qualifier, defeated Trinity in the SCAC title game. Top players: Ashley Bice, senior utility, .412 average, 6 HR, 36 RBI; Brittany Berkopec, junior infielder, .379; Taylor Bassett, freshman infielder, .300, 6 HR, 26 RBI; Bethany Fronk, freshman utility, 15-3 record, 1.10 ERA, 86 strikeouts, 133 2/3 IP; Ronni Ferris, senior utility, 13-5 record, 2.12 ERA, 130 strikeouts, 122 1/3 IP.

No. 7 Seed - Huntingdon: 28-13 record, Great South Athletic Conference Champions, automatic qualifier. Top players: Aleah Payne, senior shortstop, .458 average, 13 doubles, 12 triples, 6 HR, .878 slugging percentage, 44 RBI, 32 steals; Holly Ostrander, sophomore outfielder, .346, 31 RBI; Bree Giordana, senior pitcher, 17-7 record, 2.03 ERA, 152 strikeouts, 138.0 IP; Melissa McClure, junior pitcher, 10-6 record, 3.60 ERA, 101.0 IP.

ABOUT COACH VAN NOSTRAND: In her fourth season as Pacific Lutheran University fastpitch head coach, Erin Van Nostrand has directed the 2012 Lutes to NCAA Division III postseason play. Entering the regional tournament, Van Nostrand has compiled a 109-61 record at Pacific Lutheran and a 210-126 record in eight total years as a college head coach. Van Nostrand came to Pacific Lutheran from Pine Manor College in Chestnut Hill, Mass., where her teams averaged more than 25 wins per season in her four years as head coach. Van Nostrand graduated from Keene State College in Keene, N.H., in 1999. She was Keene State's starting shortstop for three seasons, helping the school to a NCAA Division III softball regional championship appearance, and she also was a two-year member of the school's basketball team.

PLU APPEARANCES IN DIVISION III POSTSEASON: As mentioned earlier, PLU last appeared in a Division III regional tournament back in 2003. That was the final of five straight years that Pacific Lutheran advanced to Division III postseason action. They played in regional tournaments in Orange, Calif., in 1999, 2000 and 2001. In 2002, PLU won the regional championship on its own field with a victory over East Texas Baptist University (ETBU) before placing fourth in the national tournament. It is worth noting that ETBU's head coach was Mike Reed, now the head coach at UT-Tyler. in 2003, playing against tournament host Central College in Pella, Iowa, the Lutes lost the tournament championship game on a walk-off single in the seventh inning. Central went on to win the 2003 Division III national championship.

PLU APPEARANCES IN DIVISION III POSTSEASON: As mentioned earlier, PLU last appeared in a Division III regional tournament back in 2003. That was the final of five straight years that Pacific Lutheran advanced to Division III postseason action. They played in regional tournaments in Orange, Calif., in 1999, 2000 and 2001. In 2002, PLU won the regional championship on its own field with a victory over East Texas Baptist University (ETBU) before placing fourth in the national tournament. It is worth noting that ETBU's head coach was Mike Reed, now the head coach at UT-Tyler. in 2003, playing against tournament host Central College in Pella, Iowa, the Lutes lost the tournament championship game on a walk-off single in the seventh inning. Central went on to win the 2003 Division III national championship.

PLU APPEARANCES IN DIVISION III POSTSEASON: As mentioned earlier, PLU last appeared in a Division III regional tournament back in 2003. That was the final of five straight years that Pacific Lutheran advanced to Division III postseason action. They played in regional tournaments in Orange, Calif., in 1999, 2000 and 2001. In 2002, PLU won the regional championship on its own field with a victory over East Texas Baptist University (ETBU) before placing fourth in the national tournament. It is worth noting that ETBU's head coach was Mike Reed, now the head coach at UT-Tyler. in 2003, playing against tournament host Central College in Pella, Iowa, the Lutes lost the tournament championship game on a walk-off single in the seventh inning. Central went on to win the 2003 Division III national championship.

NFCA NATIONAL RANKINGS: Pacific Lutheran has jumped one spot to No. 4 in this week's National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division III Top 25 poll. The Lutes received 176 points in the poll, which is led by Emory (Ga.), which received five first-place votes and 197 points. No. 2 Eastern Connecticut received the other three first-place votes and 195 points, followed by defending national champion Linfield, which received 185 points.

ACADEMIC ALL-DISTRICT HONOREES: Senior pitcher Stacey Hagensen (Bellevue, Wash. / Newport HS), and junior designated player Kaaren Hatlen (Woodinville, Wash. / Woodinville HS), have been named to the Capital One Academic All-District VIII First Team. The two student-athletes will advance for possible selection to the Capital One Academic All-America team. District VIII encompasses Division III schools from the West Coast all the way back to Iowa, Texas and Louisiana. Student athletes are nominated and voted on by their school's sports information directors. In the circle, Hagensen has a 20-5 record and a 1.11 earned run average. She pitched 51 consecutive innings this season without allowing a walk. Hagensen also holds a .380 batting average with 33 runs batted in, five home runs and nine stolen bases. Hagensen, a two-time academic all-district honoree, has a 3.91 grade point average while majoring in both mathematics and economics. Hatlen has established herself as the Lutes' most dominant hitter during the 2012 season. She leads the team in all three major hitting categories with a .449 batting average, 51 runs batted in and nine home runs. Hatlen is majoring in mathematics and maintains a 3.95 grade point average. Both players earned first team All-Northwest Conference honors in a vote of the league coaches. For the second straight year, Hagensen received NWC Pitcher of the Year accord as well, and for the third time she was picked to the all-conference first team. Haatlen is a two-time first team selection as utility/designated player.

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