Story by NAIA National Office
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) has released the list of 10 host sites for the 5th annual NAIA Softball National Championship Opening Round, the national office announced Wednesday. The event will be played May 15 – 17 and features 10 four-team, double elimination tournaments throughout the country. The 40 qualifiers and pairings for the Opening Rounds will be announced Wednesday, May 10. The opening round playing format can be found here.
The hosts include Bowling Green (Ky.) Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (CVB) and Campbellsville University (Ky.) (co-hosts), Columbia College (Mo.), Davenport University (Mich.), Georgia Gwinnett College, Lindsey Wilson University (Ky.), Louisiana State University Alexandria, Morningside College (Iowa), Oklahoma City University, Vanguard University (Calif.) and William Carey University (Miss.). Each of these 10 schools is guaranteed a berth in the 40-team field of the National Championship Opening Round.
Six of this year’s teams are returning as hosts for the second-straight year. Within that group, Lindsey Wilson and Oklahoma City will each be hosting for the fifth-straight time since the Opening Round Championship format began in 2013. The other hosts back for a second year in-a-row are Davenport, Georgia Gwinnett, LSU Alexandria and Morningside. Morningside was also the host of the NAIA Softball World Series final site the previous two years.
Two entities – Bowling Green Area CVB and Campbellsville (co-hosts) and Vanguard – are first-time hosts in this event.
Last year, six of the 10 Opening Round hosts won their bracket and represented their school at the World Series.
Each Opening Round host site will include a four-team double elimination tournament. The champion of each Opening Round will advance to play in the 37th annual NAIA Softball World Series in Clermont, Fla., that runs May 26 – June 1. The World Series is a ten-team double elimination tournament held at Legends Way Fields with the championship and if-necessary games taking place on Thursday, June 1.
Last year’s national champion, Oklahoma City won its ninth World Series trophy by coming back through the elimination bracket to beat Saint Xavier (Ill.) in the if-necessary game.
The Opening Round site selection process takes into account: geography, facilities, student-athlete experience, current rating of the team and host qualification. In the event that a host bid is directly tied to an institution, that school is guaranteed at least an at-large berth into the field in order to host. The bid deadline was April 1.
2017 NAIA Softball National Championship Opening Round Host Sites
|Bowling Green Area CVB / Campbellsville %||Michael O Buchanon Park||Bowling Green, Ky.||Bowling Green Bracket|
|Columbia||Antimi Sports Complex at Cosmo Park||Columbia, Mo.||Columbia (Mo.) Bracket|
|Davenport ^||Farmers Insurance Athletic Complex||Grand Rapids, Mich.||Grand Rapids Bracket|
|Georgia Gwinnett ^||Grizzly Softball Field||Lawrenceville, Ga.||Lawrenceville Bracket|
|Lindsey Wilson *||Marilyn D Sparks Park||Columbia, Ky.||Columbia (Ky.) Bracket|
|LSU Alexandria ^||LSUA Generals Field||Alexandria, La.||Alexandria Bracket|
|Morningside ^||Jensen Softball Complex||Sioux City, Iowa||Sioux City Bracket|
|Oklahoma City *||Ann Lacy Stadium||Oklahoma City, Okla.||Oklahoma City Bracket|
|Vanguard %||Vanguard Softball Field||Costa Mesa, Calif.||Costa Mesa Bracket|
|William Carey||Joseph & Nancy Fail Field||Hattiesburg, Miss.||Hattiesburg Bracket|
% Opening Round Championship first time host
* Opening Round Championship host in 2013, 2014, 2015 & 2016
^ Opening Round Championship host in 2016
NAIA Softball National Championship Opening Round Facts
o This opening round championship format occurs for the fifth time in the history of the sport, which spans back to 1981. From 2005-12, the championship format was played out at one location and included pool play with the champions advancing to double-elimination action.
o Opening Round All-Time Records (by seeds since 2013)
o No. 1 seeds: 104-37 (.738)
o No. 2 seeds: 79-65 (.549)
o No. 3 seeds: 47-76 (.382)
o No. 4 seeds: 26-77 (.252)
o Since the Opening Round format began in 2013, the top seed has been the Opening Round champion in 27-of-40 events. The No. 2 seed has won nine Opening Rounds, while No. 3 College of Idaho (in 2014), No. 3 Dickinson State (N.D.) (in 2015) and No. 3 Williams Baptist (Ark.) (2016) are the only No. 3 seeds to win their events. A No. 4 seed won their bracket for the first time in 2016 with Webber International (Fla.) winning the Reinhardt (Ga.) Bracket with a record of 3-0.
o Since the start of Opening Rounds in 2013, the hosts have gone a combined 98-42.
o Lindsey Wilson and Oklahoma City are the only programs to serve as Opening Round hosts in all five years.
o The 40-team Opening Round field will be comprised of 31 automatic qualifiers and nine at-large berths. The 18 conferences will receive one berth per six teams and two berths per ten teams. In addition, the Unaffiliated Group, comprising the Association of Independent Institutions (A.I.I.) and the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference (GCAC) will receive two automatic berths.
o The 10 Opening Round champions will meet up at the NAIA Softball World Series in Clermont, Fla., for a seven day, double-elimination event starting on May 26. There are four games during each of the first three days (Sunday is an off day); three games on May 30; two games on May 31; World Series championship final on June 1 (if necessary game to follow).
o The 10-team World Series bracket will be officially announced May 17 after the Opening Rounds have been completed (late in the day).
o Currently, 191 NAIA schools sponsor a varsity softball program among a membership of nearly 260 colleges, universities and conferences.