By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
Everything about this wild and wonderful weekend will be brand new for the Anderson University softball team.
So why should the opposition be any different?
The Ravens open play in the NCAA Div. III World Series — for the first time in program history — today at 2:30 p.m. against 18th-ranked Luther College in Eau Claire, Wis.
A quick Google search reveals the Norse (32-9) are located in Decorah, Iowa, and are making their fourth consecutive appearance in the national finals and their seventh trip overall. Luther went 4-0 last week to win the regional at Wisconsin-Whitewater.
“I don’t know a lot about them,” AU coach Tony Holloway said earlier this week, “but let’s be honest, they didn’t get there by accident, either.”
Anderson (31-16) is one of just eight schools still playing for the Div. III national championship, and it’s the only one left that didn’t receive at least one vote in the final coaches’ poll of the season.
Top-ranked Salisbury (39-2) kicks off tournament play at noon today against unranked SUNY-Cortland (32-15), a school that is part of the State University of New York system and received four votes in the final national poll.
At 5 p.m., No. 7 Tufts (42-3) takes on fifth-ranked Texas-Tyler (44-4), and 16th-ranked Central (Iowa) (32-8) closes out the first day against No. 3 Montclair State (45-3) around 7:30 p.m.
Each of those teams has exactly the kind of credentials expected of teams that advance to the national finals. But none of them is likely to intimidate a Ravens team that won five consecutive elimination games to claim the regional championship at Angola and reach this point.
“I think it’s because we’re so relaxed,” AU senior Katie Lee, a Highland graduate, said of the team’s resiliency. “There’s no pressure on us. It’s all for fun now.”
The Ravens also appear to be peaking at the right time.
Anderson is 9-2 since an April 27 loss against Hanover, and the Ravens scored 51 runs during their seven regional games at Angola. Included in that tally is a 16-run outburst against Allegheny to force a second championship game, which AU won 5-1 to advance to Eau Claire.
“This is what we were used to,” former Shenandoah star Yardley Collett, who was named regional MVP, said of the offensive production. “Last year, it seemed like it happened every single game. This year, it’s been a little bit of a struggle up until this point. We would still get runs on the board, obviously enough to win. But it seems like everybody’s just meshing at the right time, and we’re getting everything ironed out that we’ve needed to.”
The Ravens also enter the national finals with the knowledge they can play well against elite competition. AU defeated second-ranked Trine 5-1 in the regional opener and again 10-6 during an elimination game last week.
Those scores won’t have a direct impact on this weekend’s play. But the memory of them certainly can’t hurt.
“That was a big confidence booster for us, and it tells us that we literally can play with any team in the nation,” senior pitcher Devin Moorman said. “I don’t think we’re out of our league by any means. We’re just going to play our best game and see what happens.”