EAU CLAIRE, Wis. – The top-ranked Salisbury University softball team landed in Eau Claire, Wis., yesterday afternoon after punching its ticket to the 31st Division III Softball Championship by sweeping the competition in the Salem, Va., NCAA Regional last weekend.
The team has been preparing all season long for the opportunity to play in the World Series, and now that they are there, they are making their final preparations before stepping out onto the diamond on Friday.
Early this morning, the Sea Gulls (39-2) took to the field, where a national champion will be crowned at the end of the tournament, for their last practice of the 2013 season. Afterwards, Salisbury participated in a game of kick ball at North Star Middle School with Special Olympics athletes.
The Championship Banquet, that begins at 8 p.m., will conclude the pre-tournament festivities and can be followed live at http://blugolds.com/live/video/ncaa.
Salisbury will continue its quest for the program's first national title on Friday, May 17 at noon, when the Sea Gulls take on the State University of New York at Cortland. The 12 p.m., contest will kick off the start of the national finals.
The Sea Gulls return to the national finals, with their last appearance in 2009. Salisbury has made the trip to the World Series seven times and has been a national finalist twice but is still looking for the elusive national title. Sophomore pitcher Rachel Johnson has been stellar for SU in the circle and has relied on the Sea Gull defense to make the big plays when the ball is put in play. Since the end of regular-season play, Johnson has delivered a 0.77 ERA in six starts and seven appearances, total, while seniors Michelle Gravdahl and Hannah Mills have led the offense. Gravdahl has gone 7-for-17 in postseason play with eight runs scored, nine RBIs and two homers, while Mills has gone 8-for-20 with seven RBIs, eight runs scored, two doubles and one home run. The duo has been walked 11 times with two hit-by-pitches. Johnson was named the MVP of the Salem Regional while three other Sea Gulls were named to the all-tournament team in Gravdahl, Mills, and junior Harley Hill.
Salisbury's opponent, Corland St., advanced to the World Series by winning the Ithaca Regional. The Red Dragons are making their eighth appearance to the World Series and lean on junior pitcher Amber Corrigan, who was named the MVP of the Ithaca Regional. Corrigan has a 1.09 ERA in nine postseason games.
Salisbury and Cortland St., are joined by Luther College, Anderson (Ind.) University, Tufts University, University of Texas at Tyler, Central (Iowa) College and Montclair State University in the national finals.
Check back at www.suseagulls.com as live stats and video links become available for games starting on Friday, May 17.