Softball: Potomac State, Phoenix square off in national tournament today

By Mike Mathews   mmathews@times-news.com

CLINTON, Miss. — Potomac State is becoming pretty familiar with the NJCAA Division 2 National Softball Tournament.

And the Catamounts are pretty familiar with Phoenix (Ariz.) College, too.

For the third year in a row, the two teams will square off in an opening round game here at Traceway Park, where 16 teams begin a double-elimination tournament to decide the national champion.

Eleven of the 16 teams were ranked in the regular season’s final poll, including Phoenix, No. 3 with a 51-6 record, and Potomac State, No. 20 with a 26-13 record.

The Catamounts and Bears play today at 4:30 p.m.

Last year, Potomac State was the No. 16 seed in the tournament and Phoenix was No. 1. This year, the Catamounts moved up to a No. 14 seed, but were unable to avoid the Bears, who are the No. 3 seed.

Phoenix, which won last year’s game 10-2 and the 2015 game 9-2, has won eight national titles, the most recent being 2012.

And, like in years past, coach Jim Walton’s Catamounts will be up against one of the nation’s top hitting teams. Phoenix has 13 players batting .300 or better and a team average of .410, has hit 101 home runs and scored 563 runs in 57 games, an average of just under 10 per game.

Alyssa Fernandez is 12th in the nation in hitting at .524 and leads the nation with 22 home runs. She also has 12 doubles and 60 RBIs.

Amanda Preach is at .491 and is seventh in the country with seven triples. She also has clubbed 16 doubles and five home runs, and Samantha Rae has swatted 14 home runs and is 12th in the country with 69 RBIs.

Potomac State, with only four sophomores on its opening day roster, beat No. 12 Catonsville and Chesapeake last week to win the Region XX championship. Freshman Kadi Cosgrove leads the Catamounts offense with a .455 average, 17 doubles, six home runs and 27 RBIs.

Jordyn Munson is hitting .431 with 29 RBIs and Megan Newcomb is at .385 with eight doubles, seven homers and 27 RBIs. Abby Gillingham (.369, six doubles), Kayla Wilt (.345), Carly Nixon (.313, six doubles, 22 RBIs), and Kayla Stickley (.313, 23 RBIs) round out the PSC hitters batting .300 or better.

The Catamounts have a .336 team batting average and are averaging 6.8 runs per game.

Phoenix pitcher Dustie Durham is 19-2 with a 1.50 earned run average, and has also hit 10 home runs. Stevie McLemore is 15-3 with a 2.48 ERA.

Cosgrove, Munson and Makenah Harrington, all freshmen, lead the Potomac State staff. Cosgrove is 8-5 with a save and 1.71 ERA with 94 strikeouts in 81 2/3 innings, Munson is 8-1 with a save and a 2.60 ERA, and Harrington 8-7 with a 3.04 ERA.

Other ranked teams in the tournament are: No. 1 Jones County, Mississippi (44-2), No. 2 Kirkwood, Iowa (49-4), No. 4 and defending champion LSU-Eunice (42-10), No. 5 Des Moines Area, Iowa (41-7), No. 10 Kankakee, Illinois (40-10), No. 11 Cowley County, Kansas (40-13), No. 13 Mercyhurst North East, Pennsylvania (40-7), No. 14 Oakland, Michigan (36-10), and No. 19 Pitt, North Carolina (21-11).