The Eagles will open the 2012 NCAA Division II softball playoffs with a Midwest Regional game against Bellarmine at Grand Valley State. There are eight teams in the Midwest Region and Ashland is the third seed. This is a sub-regional double-elimination tournament that runs Friday-Sunday, May 4-6. Here is this weekend schedule.
Friday, May 4
Game 1 – 12 p.m. – Bellarmine (#6) vs. Ashland (#3)
Game 2 – 2:30 p.m. – Saint Joseph's (#7) at Grand Valley State (#2)
Saturday, May 5
Game 3 – 11 a.m. – Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2
Game 4 – 1:30 p.m. – Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2
Game 5 – 4 p.m. – Winner Game 4 vs. Loser Game 3
Sunday, May 6
Game 6 – 12 p.m. – Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 5
Game 7 – 2:30 p.m. – Winner Game 6 vs. Loser Game 6 (if necessary)
The winner of this weekend's tourney at GVSU will meet the survivor from the other sub-regional at Indianapolis. Indianapolis is the top seed in the region. The other teams playing at Indianapolis are Northern Kentucky, Illinois-Springfield and Wayne State.
Grand Valley State is 44-13 (24-8 GLIAC) and was the top seed for last week's GLIAC Tournament. Saint Joseph's is 34-19 (22-12 GLVC) and finished second in the GLVC East Division. Bellarmine is 32-27 (21-15 GLVC) and tied for fourth in the GLIVC East.
About the Eagles
Ashland is 40-15, 23-9 in the GLIAC. AU had the second best record in the GLIAC. This is the fourth consecutive year the Eagles have reached the NCAA playoffs. Two years ago the Eagles lost two games to none in the regional championship at Wayne State. This is the first time Ashland has won 40 games since the 2003 team went 40-18. This is the fourth consecutive year AU has won 30 or more games and the fourth straight season the Eagles have won 20 or more games in GLIAC play. AU went 1-2 at last weekend's GLIAC Tournament. Ashland is 7-3 in its last 10 games. This is the 10th time in school history the Eagles have been invited to the NCAA playoffs. The Eagles had winning streaks of nine and 10 games this season. The Eagles are 15-7 away from home and 8-4 on a neutral field. AU's first NCAA playoff appearance came in 1996. The Eagles have never reached the NCAA Championships.
Head Coach Sheilah Gulas
Gulas is in her 25th year as a college head coach. Her career record is 770-391 (66.3 percent winning percentage). At Ashland, Gulas is 567-267 (68 percent). This is her 16th season with the Eagles. Under Gulas the Eagles have participated in the NCAA playoffs nine times. She has guided the Eagles to five seasons of 40 or more wins, 10 seasons of 30+ victories, one 50-win season, five GLIAC regular season titles and three GLIAC Tournament crowns. She was the GLIAC coach of the year in 2009 and 2010. Gulas is AU's career leader in wins and her 1998 team established the school single-season record for wins (53).
Gulas is a 1983 Clarion graduate. Prior to arriving at AU, she was the head coach at two Division III schools – Allegheny and Wittenberg.
Senior Emlyn Knerem (Brunswick, Ohio) has been one of the nation's best pitchers throughout her career. She is a four-time, first team All-GLIAC selection and is the 2012 GLIAC pitcher of the year. In 2009 she was the GLIAC freshman of the year. She has been a first and second team all-region choice. Knerem has also earned second team All-America honors. This season, Knerem is 27-5 with a 1.59 ERA. That win total is a school, single-season record. Knerem is the GLIAC leader in wins and strikeouts (248) and she is second in ERA. She is sixth in the nation in victories, 14th in strikeouts, 21st in strikeouts per seven innings (8.4) and 22nd in walks per seven innings (0.92).
Knerem is Ashland's career leader in victories (93), innings (809.1), saves (11), complete games (106) and starts (112). She is second in career strikeouts (1,065). Knerem is one of two pitchers in school history to have more than 1,000 strikeouts (the career leader is Josie Nelson with 1,109). Knerem has pitched six no-hitters in her collegiate career. Her career record is 93-27 (77.5 percent winning percentage).
Inside Information on the Infield
Thanks to a sure-handed inner defense, the Eagles are 14th in the nation in fielding percentage (.979). Senior third baseman Alyssa Kelley (Mentor, Ohio) leads the GLIAC in batting average (.444) and is 29th in the nation in toughest to strike out (30.0). She is the 2012 GLIAC co-player of the year. Kelley is just the third player in school history to be named the GLIAC player of the year. She is a first team All-GLIAC choice this season and in her career, has been a second team all-conference choice twice. Kelley is the team leader in total bases (109), slugging percentage (.606), on-base percentage (.487), hits (80) and runs (47). If she can maintain this batting average, it would be the fourth highest mark in school history. At AU, Kelley is second in career hits (247) and doubles (52) and third in career RBI (131). The career leader in doubles is Alicia Longstreth with 53. Kelley has a .388 career batting average and that puts her fourth on the all-time list.
At the other corner of the infield, junior Franki Gironda (Akron, Ohio/Hoban) is in her second season as the starter. She is third on the team in RBI (39) and batting average (.352). Gironda is 10th in the GLIAC in RBI. For the second consecutive season, Gironda is an All-GLIAC honorable mention pick.
Sophomore second baseman Cayla Seidler (Massillon, Ohio/Massillon Washington) is in her second season as the starter. She is a GLIAC honorable mention selection for the second consecutive year. Seidler has 17 doubles, the school single-season record is 18. This is the first year the sophomore has filled the leadoff spot in the order. She is tied for the team lead in extra-base hits (22 – 17 doubles, three triples, two homers).
Senior Bri Woody (Cleveland, Ohio/Magnificat) is a four-year starter at shortstop. She was a second team All-GLIAC honoree a year ago. Woody leads the team in stolen bases (15-of-17).
Catcher Tawna Garver (Mansfield, Ohio/Hillsdale) is a two-time, second team all-conference pick. She is second on the team in homers (eight) and third in RBI (34). This is Garver's third year in the starting lineup.
Scouting the AU Outfield
Freshman Taylor Menhart (Twinsburg, Ohio) has settled in as the starting center fielder. She has a pair of five-RBI games this season. Menhart leads the team in RBI (41), is tied for the team lead in extra-base hits (22 – 11 doubles, five triples, six homers) and is second in batting average (.354). She is eighth in the GLIAC in RBI.
Freshman Jerrica Young (Loudonville, Ohio) had developed into one of the most dangerous hitters in the GLIAC. She is fourth in the league in homers (10) and ninth in RBI (40). Young is also a catcher.
All 20 players on the AU roster are from Ohio…the roster has three seniors – Knerem, Kelley and Woody…Ashland hasn't lost more than two consecutive games this season…the Eagles have scored 61 runs in the first inning, that's their best inning scoring-wise…Kelley has a team-high 25 multi-hit games and she owns a 15-game hitting streak. Earlier this year, she had a 16-game hitting streak. That's the longest on the team…In addition to Kelley, the other AU players to be named the GLIAC player of the year are outfielder Sunny Litteral (1998) and pitcher Natalie Pry (1999)…Gironda and Young have 10 multi-RBI games each…in last year's sub-regional NCAA tournament at Saginaw Valley State, the Eagles lost to Indianapolis, 1-0, blanked Northern Kentucky, 1-0 and lost to Indianapolis, 8-0.
Eagles vs. Bellarmine (AU is 1-1 vs. the Knights)
In two games against Bellarmine this year, Gironda is 3-for-5 (.600) with a homer and four RBI. Menhart is 3-for-6 (.500). In one start against the Knights, Knerem is 1-0. She went six innings and allowed two runs on three hits with a walk and 10 strikeouts. AU's all-time record against the Knights is 14-2.
Feb. 25 – at Bellarmine
Ashland 7, Bellarmine 3
Bellarmine 7, Ashland 2
Eagles vs. Grand Valley State (AU is 1-1 vs. the Lakers)
Ashland is 1-1 against GVSU this season. Kelley is hitting .500 (4-for-8) with a pair of doubles against the Lakers. Woody is also swinging at a .500 clip (2-for-4) against Grand Valley State. Knerem is 1-0 this season against the Lakers. She has pitched 10 innings this season against GVSU and has allowed nine hits with one walk and nine strikeouts. Ashland leads the all-time series with the Lakers, 28-21.
Apr. 14 – at Grand Valley State
Ashland 6, Grand Valley State 1
Grand Valley State 1, Ashland 0 (9 innings)
Eagles vs. Saint Joseph's (Did Not Play This Year)
The Eagles have not played the Pumas since the 2002 season. Ashland holds a 19-5 edge in the all-time series with SJC.