Ashland University Softball - NCAA Regional Preview

Jerrica Young (24)
Jerrica Young (24)

2013 NCAA Division II Softball Championship Regional Bracket

Friday, May 10-Sunday, May 12 – at Indianapolis

Friday, May 10

Noon – Lewis (30-16) vs. ASHLAND (27-18)

2:30 p.m. – Wayne State (30-20) vs. Indianapolis (50-6)

Saturday, May 11

Games played at 10 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 3 p.m.

Sunday, May 12

Championship game will be played at noon. If a second game is needed, it will be played at 2:30 p.m.

Ashland Overview

            This is the fifth straight season AU has reached the NCAA Division II playoffs. This is the 10th time the Eagles have made that trip with Sheilah Gulas as the head coach. AU is 27-18 and is 7-3 in its last 10 games. The Eagles went 2-2 at last week's GLIAC Tournament at Findlay. AU finished third in the GLIAC this season. In conference play the Eagles were 17-8.

            Ashland has never reached the Elite Eight in softball. AU's lone trip to the Super Regional was in 2010 when the Eagles lost to Wayne State in Detroit. AU's first trip to the NCAA playoffs came in 1996.

            A year ago, AU went 2-2 at the sub-regional tournament at Grand Valley State. The Eagles opened the postseason with a 2-1 win over Bellarmine. Ashland then lost to Saint Joseph's, 1-0 and knocked off 19th-ranked Grand Valley State, 3-0. AU's playoff run ended with a 5-1 loss to Saint Joseph's. SJC went on to win the regional championship and advance to the College World Series.

Tournament Overview

            The winner of the sub-regional at Indianapolis will play the winner of the sub-regional being held at Grand Valley State (May 9-11). The field at GVSU includes the host Lakers (second seed), Missouri-St. Louis (#3), Southern Indiana (#6) and Ferris State (#7). The Super Regional will be played on the home field of the highest remaining seed, May 17-18. That's a best two-out-of-three series. The winner of that series is the Midwest Regional champion and will advance to the NCAA Championships, May 23-27 in Salem, Va.

            The NCAA tournament field includes 64 teams. Eight teams will reach Salem. The defending champion is Valdosta State.

            Indianapolis is the top seed in the region and is ranked first in the country. Lewis is the fourth seed, AU is seeded fifth and Wayne State is the eighth seed.

AU Head Coach Sheilah Gulas

            Gulas is in her 17th season at Ashland. Her record with the Eagles is 596-288. Her overall record in 26 years as a collegiate head coach is 799-411. Before the advent of the Super Regional format, Gulas led AU to the regional championship game three times. Gulas was named the GLIAC coach of the year in 2009 and 2010. She has guided Ashland to the GLIAC regular season title five times and the GLIAC Tournament championship three times. Under Gulas, AU has enjoyed five seasons of 40+ wins and 10 seasons of 30+ wins. Before arriving at Ashland, Gulas was the head coach at Allegheny and Wittenberg.

Conference Call

            AU finished in third place in the GLIAC during the regular season. Ashland did not place any players on the All-GLIAC first team. Freshman Jen Moore (Jeromesville, Ohio/Hillsdale) was named All-GLIAC second team. Sophomore third baseman Jerrica Young (Loudonville, Ohio) and sophomore center fielder Taylor Menhart (Twinsburg, Ohio) were tabbed honorable mention All-GLIAC.

            A year ago, Ashland had the GLIAC pitcher of the year in Emlyn Knerem and the co-player of the year in third baseman Alyssa Kelley. No one on this year's team has individual numbers like those two, but the production has been fine. Six players have knocked in 20 or more runs, five players have three or more homers, four players have nine or more doubles and seven have scored 22 or more runs.

            A year ago, Kelley hit .430 with three homers and 30 RBI. Knerem was 29-7 with 289 strikeouts and a 1.60 ERA.

            Menhart is hitting. 380 with three homers and 24 RBI. A year ago she hit .347 with six homers and 41 RBI. Young hit .305 last season with a team-high 10 homers and 41 RBI. This season, she again leads the team in home runs with 10 and has driven in 34 runs. Moore is hitting .308 with six home runs and a team-high 35 RBI.

Sophomores In the Circle

            A year ago, Knerem pitched as much as possible. Because of that, it wasn't easy for a newcomer to get time in the circle.

 Amber McDermott (Creston, Ohio/Norwayne), now a sophomore, hurled 130.2 innings last year and went 12-6 with a 3.27 ERA. This year, McDermott is 11-4. Another sophomore, Sarah Alley (Milford, Ohio), is 14-8. Alley missed all of last season due to a foot injury.

Ashland vs. the GLVC

            Lewis plays in the Great Lakes Valley Conference. Since the start of the 2011 season, Ashland has gone 9-9 against GLVC teams. In the postseason since 2011, AU is 2-3 against the GLVC.

            The last time AU and Lewis played was in 2011. The Eagles met Lewis in the season opener in Florida and lost, 2-1. In 2010, Ashland advanced to the Super Regional Championship with a 4-1 win over Lewis at Brookside Park.

            The last time the Eagles played Indianapolis was in the NCAA playoffs in 2011. The Greyhounds defeated AU twice, 1-0 and 8-0.

Comparison Shopping

            Here's a look at the tournament teams lined up against each other

                                    AU      Lewis  Indianapolis   Wayne State

Batting Average          .304     .288     .323                 .295

Runs Per Game           5.29     4.39     6.66                 4.06

Doubles Per Game      1.44     1.07     1.57                 1.08

HR Per Game              0.69     0.48     1.00                 0.18

Slugging Percentage   .439     .387     .515                 .360

ERA                            2.82     2.52     1.05                 2.67

Fielding Percentage    .961     .966     .973                 .964

Steals Per Game          0.76     1.33     1.73                 0.50

Scouting Lewis

            The Flyers are 6-4 in their last 10 games. However, that stretch includes two wins over Indianapolis. Lewis finished in second place, behind Indianapolis, in the GLVC East Division.

            Outfielder Jayme Hefler, a first team All-GLVC pick, is hitting .394 and is 25-for-30 on stolen base attempts. Outfielder Lauren Hanford, another first team all-conference selection, is hitting .356 with 15 doubles, four homers and 41 RBI. Shortstop Michelle Vucsko, a GLVC first teamer at shortstop, is hitting .372 with six homers and 24 RBI.

            Kelly Bowler and Ali Brems have handled the bulk of the work in the circle. Both are second team all-league selections. Bowler is 17-8 with a 1.81 ERA and eight shutouts. Opponents are hitting .214 against her. Brems is 13-8 with a 3.23 ERA.

Scouting Indianapolis

            No team has been better than the Greyhounds from start to finish this season. However, it's worth noting that neither Indianapolis or Lewis won the GLVC Tournament – that trophy went to Missouri-St. Louis. Indianapolis is 6-4 in its last 10 games. The Greyhounds went 2-2 at last week's GLVC Tournament, but still retained the top spot in the national poll.

            The pitching staff features two first team All-GLVC performers. Senior Jennifer DeMotte is 24-2 with a 0.92 ERA and has fanned 175 batters in 167.2 innings. Morgan Foley is 25-4 with a 1.20 ERA and was named the GLVC Freshman of the Year. She has 298 strikeouts in 186.1 innings.

            Sophomore outfielder Casey Williamson is the GLVC Player of the Year and one of six, first team All-GLVC selections on the Indianapolis roster. Williamson is hitting .453 with 12 homers and 52 RBI. Designated player Taylor Russell checks in at .388 with 15 round-trippers and 51 RBI. First baseman Bailey Wittenauer is hitting .349 and has 10 homers and 47 RBI. Russell and Wittenauer are first team all-league choices.


Scouting Wayne State

            Last Sunday, the Warriors shut out Grand Valley State twice and grabbed the GLIAC Tournament championship. That's quite an accomplishment because GVSU is one of the most powerful offensive teams in the nation. WSU may not have the numbers that jump off the page like Lewis or Indianapolis, but the Warriors are playing very well right now. They go into Friday's game with Indianapolis with a six-game winning streak.

            Outfielder Logan White is hitting .418. She was a second team All-GLIAC pick. Infielder Nikki Fulton was also named second team all-conference. Outfielder Stephanie Foreman is hitting .344 and has four homers and 20 RBI.

            Mackenzie Bowler is 17-4 with a 2.45 ERA. Briana Lee is sixth in the country in saves (five). She leads the GLIAC in that department and is second in strikeouts (145).

            The last time Ashland and WSU met in the NCAA postseason was in 2010 in the Super Regional. WSU advanced to the College World Series by winning two straight games against the Eagles. AU is 1-3 against the Warriors this season.