By Chad Waller, NAIA Director of Communications & Sports Information
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - (Press Book - PDF) (Live Statistics) Thirty-teams are set for the 32nd annual NAIA Softball National Championship, starting Thursday from Gulf Shores, Ala. Action begins at 9 a.m., from the Gulf Shores SportsPlex as Brenau (Ga.) and Bethany (Kan.) kick off the event. There will be pool play format from Thursday through Saturday, with each club playing a total of three games. The eight pool-play champions will advance to the double-elimination bracket starting on May 21. The national champion will be crowned May 23.
The Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Sports Commission, in conjunction with the University of Mobile (Ala.), are hosting for the second-straight time.
"The Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Sports Commission warmly welcomes the return of the NAIA Softball National Championship to the sugar-white sand of the Alabama Gulf Coast," said Beth Gendler, vice president of sales for the Commission. "When these student-athletes and family members are not at our beautiful sporting venues, they will have the opportunity to explore our family-oriented beaches, accommodations, restaurants, and attractions. To learn more about the area, click here."
An all tournament pass can be purchased for $30 or $8 per day for adults and $3 per day for children 4-10. All tickets can be purchased at the gate.
The current field is comprised of 23 automatic qualifiers based upon their conference / independent / unaffiliated group tournaments, eight at-large selections, which were determined using the final Top 25 rating released May 9 and the host berth, Mobile.
The Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC), which has repeatedly landed six teams in the Coaches' Top 25 poll this season, qualified the most of any conference / independent / unaffiliated group with six. Representing the SSAC is Auburn Montgomery (Ala.), Brenau, Lee (Tenn.), Mobile, Shorter (Ga.) and William Carey (Miss.). The Sooner Athletic Conference sends four teams to Gulf Shores: Lubbock Christian (Texas), Oklahoma City, St. Gregory's (Okla.) and Southern Nazarene (Okla.).
Defending national champion Oregon Tech, who is out of the Cascade Collegiate Conference, looks to become the first team since Oklahoma City (2000-02) to repeat as titlists. The Hustlin' Owls take on Madonna (Mich.) at 5:30 p.m., on Thursday. No. 1-ranked Concordia (Calif.) meets up with newcomer Talladega (Ala.) at 2 p.m.
Talladega is one of six first-times at the National Championship, joining Auburn Montgomery, Bethany, Indiana Wesleyan, Southern Nazarene and Williams Baptist (Ark.). Conversely, there are 12 programs making at least their fifth National Championship. Of those teams, only Oklahoma City and Mobile are playing in the event for at least the 10th time.
Qualifying for its record 21st-straight National Championship, Oklahoma City owns the most national championships (8). With a 40-18 season record, the Stars have won more postseason games than any school in NAIA history (103-38) and seek their first title since 2007.
NeuLion, the NAIA's digital media partner and official video-streaming company of 10 select NAIA National Championship events, will be broadcasting select softball games from May 21 - 23. Once competition has pared down to six teams, starting with Game 9 at 5:30 p.m. on May 21, live streaming will be available for $9.95 per day or $29.95 for the whole event. For more video-streaming information, click here.
For more information on the Championship, click here.