AUBURN, Ala. (May 18, 2017) – The ETSU softball team will make its NCAA Tournament debut on Friday afternoon as the Buccaneers take on regional host and No. 7 national seed Auburn at Jane B. Moore Field. First pitch is set for 4:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU.
ABOUT THE BUCS
After finishing third in the regular season, the Buccaneers took the No. 3 seed into the Southern Conference and went 4-0 en route to winning their first-ever conference championship last weekend in Chattanooga … The Bucs – who capped off a perfect 4-0 week in Chattanooga – used strong pitching and clutch hitting the entire week to capture the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Overall, the Blue and Gold totaled a microscopic 0.47 ERA (2 ER/30.0 IP), while registering three shutouts and limiting the opponents to a .134 batting average. Of the 13 hits allowed over the four-day stretch, only two went for extra-bases. Offensively, six Bucs hit over .300 for the tournament with three posting marks over .400, as ETSU outscored its opponents, 18-3 for the week. As a group, the Bucs hit .424 with runners in scoring position (14-for-33), along with hitting .308 with two outs (12-for-39) and scoring seven two-out runs. ETSU opened the tournament with a 7-0 win over No. 6 seed Western Carolina on Wednesday, while following that up with a 1-0 victory over tournament host and No. 7 seed Chattanooga … In the win over the Mocs, Chattanooga looked to have plated the game-tying run in the bottom of the sixth inning on a sac fly to right field; however, the runner at third was called out for leaving early to keep ETSU’s 1-0 lead intact … From there, the Blue and Gold defeated No. 5 seed Mercer, 4-3 in nine innings, as the Bucs overcame surrendering the game-tying runs on a two-out, two-run home run in the sixth inning … From there, ETSU retired 10 of the final 11 Mercer hitters, while Malloree Schurr’s (Montgomery, Texas) two-out RBI double in the top of the ninth inning scored Kylie Toler (Bradenton, Fla.) from first to give the Bucs the 4-3 lead … After advancing to the championship game, the Bucs plated a run in the first and added to the lead on Danielle Knoetze’s (San Diego, Calif.) three-run home run in the third, while Lindsey Fadnek (Coalfield, Tenn.) and Madison Ogle (Maryville, Tenn.) combined for a two-hit shutout as ETSU defeated No. 4 Samford in the championship game, 6-0.
ETSU’s pitching staff was a huge storyline in last week’s SoCon Championship in Chattanooga … The Bucs posted three shutouts, while taking no-hitters into the sixth inning twice (vs. Chattanooga and vs. Samford) … Following their three shutouts, the Bucs now have five on the season, which marks the most since 2009 when ETSU totaled 15.
ETSU is making history this week as the Bucs are making their first-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament … With its 29-24 record, ETSU is guaranteed to post the highest winning percentage in program history, while the 29 wins are the second-most since the program was started in 2001 … The program record for wins in a season is 30, which was set in 2008 … With the winning season, the Bucs snapped a stretch of 13 straight losing campaigns, while this year marks just the second winning season in program history.
The Bucs are one of three teams making their NCAA Tournament debut … ETSU is joined by Montana and St. Francis (PA).
Following its first-ever conference tournament title, the ETSU softball team had four players earn postseason awards in Chattanooga … Pitchers Lindsey Fadnek and Madison Ogle, along with freshman infielder Nikki Grupp (Jacksonville, Fla.) were named to the Southern Conference All-Tournament Team. Fadnek also received Most Valuable Player honors. Meanwhile, senior Brooke Baxter (Jasper, Tenn.) received the Pinnacle Award for having the highest grade point average on the championship team … Fadnek tossed 11 scoreless innings in three appearances (two starts) en route to going 2-0 with one save in the tournament. The Coalfield, Tenn. native struck out 10 and limited opponents to a .091 batting average as she only surrendered three hits … Ogle went 2-0 with a 0.82 ERA (2 ER/17.0 IP) with one complete game shutout in three appearances (two starts), while holding opponents to a .143 batting average … Grupp hit safely in all four of the games where she posted a .455 batting average (5-for-11) with a double, home run, three walks, six runs and four RBI … Following the tournament, the SoCon recognized the top student-athlete from the winning team for having the highest grade point average with the Pinnacle Award, and that honor went to Baxter. Baxter has excelled off the field as she was a member of the ETSU Honors program and generated a 4.0 GPA over her four years in the Blue and Gold. The Jasper, Tenn. native has been accepted into Quillen College of Medicine and was placed on the SoCon All-Academic Team and Honor Roll. Baxter graduated earlier this month with a degree in Health Sciences.
ETSU’s roster features seven seniors, six juniors, four sophomores and four freshmen … Of the 21 players, 10 are from Tennessee, three from California, two from Florida and Georgia and one each from Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana and Texas.
Senior outfielder Danielle Knoetze was named the 2017 Southern Conference Player of the Year, while five Buccaneers earned postseason honors … Joining Knoetze on the all-conference teams were Taylor Carter (Brazil, Ind) (second team) and Tiffany Laughren (Erwin, Tenn.) (second team), while Nikki Grupp and Kylie Toler (Bradenton, Fla.) landed on the all-freshman team … Knoetze became the second Buccaneer to earn the Player of the Year honor as she joins Janine Sprague (2005) as the only two players in program history to receive the award … ETSU’s five players to earn all-conference honors marked a program record.
Senior Mykeah Johnson (Cohutta, Ga.) has reached base safely in her last 18 games … This marks Johnson’s second on-base streak of double-digits this season as she reached base in the first 10 games to start the season … During this streak, which began on April 9, Johnson has reached base 36 times – 18 hits, 15 walks and three hit by pitch and has scored 16 runs … Nikki Grupp has reached base safely in her last eight games where she’s hitting .421 (8-for-19) with one double, home run, 10 walks, two hit by pitch, five RBI and 11 runs.
Thirty of ETSU’s 53 games this season have been decided by two runs or less with the Bucs going 15-15 in those contests … ETSU is 10-6 in one-run games and 5-9 in two-run games this season … After dropping five of their first seven one-run decisions, the Bucs have won eight of their last nine one-run games.
When the Bucs have the lead late in games it results in a victory … ETSU is 27-0 this season when leading after four innings; however, the Bucs are 0-20 when trailing after the fourth.
The Bucs have scored 34 first-inning runs this season … When the Blue and Gold score a run in the first inning, ETSU is 18-2 on the season and 23-5 when the Bucs score the first run of the game … In the Bucs’ wins, the Blue and Gold are outscoring their opponents 29-4 in the first inning.
The Bucs have won seven of their last 10 games … Over this stretch, ETSU’s offense is hitting .323 (91-for-282) with seven doubles, two triples, seven home runs, 33 walks and 46 runs … Mykeah Johnson is hitting .406 (13-for-32) with eight walks and eight runs, along with a .537 on-base percentage in this stretch … Nikki Grupp is 10-for-26 (.385) with one double, two home runs, 10 walks, seven RBI, and 13 runs, along with adding a .579 on-base percentage in her last 10 … Overall, six Buccaneers have totaled at least 10 hits during this run – Kylie Toler (11), Taylor Carter (12), Tiffany Laughren (11) and Danielle Knoetze (11) … ETSU’s pitching staff has held the opposition to a .242 batting average (64-fo-265) during this run, while the Buccaneer defense has a .982 fielding percentage in the last 10 games … Lindsey Fadnek has three wins and a save in her last seven appearances, while limiting the opposition to a .212 batting average.
After getting off to a sluggish start to the year, the Buccaneers have turned things around in their last 31 games … In ETSU’s first 22 games, the Bucs were 8-14, but since a March 17 sweep over Radford, the Blue and Gold have gone 21-10 in their last 31 games … During their last 31 games, ETSU is hitting .296 (244-for-823) with 38 doubles, five triples and 18 home runs, while outscoring the opposition, 131-96 … ETSU’s pitching staff also lowered its ERA by over a run as the Bucs have posted 2.83 clip (85 ER/210.0 IP) in the last 31, compared to a 3.95 mark (81 ER/143.2 IP) in the first 22 contests … The Bucs’ defense has also improved over the last 31 games as they have only committed 19 errors (.977 fielding percentage), while totaling 34 errors (.945 fielding percentage) in the first 22 … Lindsey Fadnek is 8-3 with a 2.51 ERA (24 ER/67.0 IP) with three saves in her last 16 appearances (12 starts) … At the plate, Mykeah Johnson has raised her average 30 points during this run as she was hitting .290 (18-for-62) in her first 22 games, compared to hitting .320 (31-for-97) in her last 31 games … Nikki Grupp has also raised her batting average 56 points during this run as she was hitting .260 (13-of-50) in her first 17 games, while hitting .316 (24-for-76) in her last 28.
ABOUT THE REGIONAL
Joining ETSU and Auburn in the regional are No. 2 seed California and No. 3 seed Notre Dame.
Auburn enters the tournament with a 46-10 record, while Notre Dame and Cal also earned at-large bids. Cal earned the No. 2 seed after finishing the regular season at 30-22 and Notre Dame is the No. 3 seed after going 33-21 in the regular season. The Buccaneers are the No. 4 seed in the regional.
Three games will be played on Saturday. The two winning teams will play at 5 p.m. ET, while the two losing teams play an elimination game at 2:30 p.m. The winner from the elimination game will play the loser from the winners bracket at 7:30 p.m. Sunday's game(s) will be played at 2:30 p.m., while the if necessary game will be played at 5 p.m.
Auburn, which earned the No. 7 national seed, will host its third-straight regional at Jane B. Moore Field.
The Tigers reached the title game of the Women’s College World Series a year ago before falling to Oklahoma in the final game of the season.
Auburn is coached by Clint Myers – who is in his fourth season with the Tigers and his 31st season overall – has posted over 200 wins at Auburn and over 1,400 for his career … Myers has coached in 12 NCAA Regionals, 10 College World Series and has won two WCWS titles.
The Tigers are among the national leaders in ERA (13th, 1.64), on-base percentage (21st, .398), scoring (27th, 5.52), home runs per game (48th, 0.84) and win-loss percentage (10th, .821) ... Individually, Kaylee Carlson ranks 10th in wins (26), 11th in ERA (1.14), and 22nd in saves (4).
Kendall Veach is tied for third in the SEC in home runs (12) and 10th in RBI (43) … Carlee Wallace is tied for the SEC in doubles (18), while ranking seventh in RBI (47) and 12th in hits (56).
The Tigers had recorded 19 shutouts this season, while going 28-4 at home.
Cal is making its 31st NCAA Tournament appearance after going 30-22 this season … The Bears have appeared in all but five NCAA Softball tournaments since the sport became sponsored by the organization in 1982.
After finishing eighth in the Pac-12, Cal is one of eight conference teams to reach postseason play.
The Bears regular season was highlighted by Jazmyn Jackson's performance at the plate as the junior led the conference with 17 doubles. For the second consecutive season, senior Kylie Reed led the team with a .329 batting average, with Jackson following with a .324.
In the circle, Cal is led by Zoe Conley as she is 19-13 with a 2.80 ERA (80 ER/200.1 IP) with eight shutouts in 41 appearances (33 starts) … Conley also has three of the Golden Bears’ five saves.
ABOUT NOTRE DAME
Notre Dame qualified for its 19th straight NCAA Division I Softball Championship. A total of three Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) teams received regional invitations, with Notre Dame joined by national No. 4 seed Florida State and North Carolina in the NCAA Championship draw.
Notre Dame has now qualified for the NCAA Championship 22 times in the past 24 seasons, reaching the regional final of the national tournament on 10 occasions. Head coach Deanna Gumpf has directed the Irish to NCAA Regional appearances in each of her 16 seasons at the helm of the program.
Notre Dame has amassed a 1,179-515-3 (.696) all-time record, 30 combined conference championships (19 regular season, 11 tournament) and 22 NCAA Regional appearances, which has included 19 straight berths into the NCAA Championship tournament.
Irish softball is one of only two Notre Dame varsity athletic programs to have never posted a losing record. The softball team clinched its 29th straight season with a .500 record or better with a 6-5 win over Western Michigan on April 19.
Four Notre Dame team members officially received all-ACC honors ... Ali Wester and Karley Wester were both selected to the all-ACC first team, while Morgan Reed and Melissa Rochford claimed all-ACC second team accolades.
Karley Wester is the active hits leader in NCAA Division I softball with 320 as of May 14 … She also holds the Notre Dame career records for runs scored (225) and stolen bases (128).
The Irish have a pair of pitchers with double-digit wins as Rachel Nasland is 16-10 with a 3.57 ERA (88 ER/172.1 IP), while Katie Beriont is 12-6 with a 4.11 ERA (72 ER/122.2 IP).
ETSU VS. THE FIELD
ETSU and Auburn have faced each other once in program history with the Tigers defeating the Bucs, 11-3, back on Feb. 8, 2013. The Bucs have also faced Notre Dame once as the Fighting Irish won 6-1 back on March 6, 2010. ETSU and Cal have never met.
Friday’s game with Auburn will be televised live on ESPNU with Mark Neely on the play-by-play and Jenny Dalton-Hill being the color analyst.
Live Twitter updates will be available by following @ETSUSoftball.
Click here to access a NCAA Tournament bracket.
For more information on Buccaneer softball in the NCAA Regional, please stay tuned to ETSUBucs.com.