By Chad Waller, Director of Athletics Communications and Media
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – What started out as 192 programs at the beginning of the 2017 season has dwindled down to 40 teams, as the National Championship Opening Rounds will play out May 15 – 17 at 10 different locations. The 10 opening round champions will collide at the 37th annual NAIA Softball World Series for a shot at winning the trophy.
The official 10-team World Series bracket will be announced late in the day on May 17 on NAIA.org after all Opening Rounds have been completed. The World Series is scheduled for May 26 – June 1 in Clermont, Fla., at the Legends Way Ball Fields. PFX Athletics is hosting for the first time.
This is the fifth year of the Opening Round format, as each location will host four teams in double-elimination play. The opening round field is comprised of 31 automatic qualifiers and nine at-large berths, determined using the final Coaches' Top 25 Poll, announced May 10.
On Monday, May 15, the top seed matches up with the No. 4 seed at each site while the Nos. 2 and 3 seeds clash. There are three games scheduled for the second day, while the championship and “if necessary” contests are slated for the third day.
Nine-time and defending national champion Oklahoma City is hosting an opening round for the fifth-straight year, winning three-previous titles. The Stars, with the most season wins of any NAIA program at 61-1, take on No. 4 seed Kansas Wesleyan (34-14) on Monday at 3 p.m. CDT. Oklahoma City is one of 13 qualifiers who have claimed one previous national championship opening round trophy.
In total, five programs punched their first-ever ticket to the opening round: Cumberlands (Ky.), Edward Waters (Fla.), Jamestown (N.D.), Vanguard (Calif.) and Warner (Fla.).
For more information on the 2017 NAIA Softball National Championship, click here. Follow along with live updates on the NAIA social media accounts on Twitter (@NAIA), Facebook (@PlayNAIA) and Instagram (@playnaia) using #NAIASoftball.