By Rick Teverbaugh
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
The Anderson University softball team has done it both ways and neither is easy.
The Ravens have been to the NCAA Division III softball tournament the past two seasons and today they will try to break into that elite field again. In 2011, AU won the tournament that was played at Transylvania, the regular season champs a year ago.
Last season, the Ravens were regular season champs, hosted the tournament and swept through it by a combined score of 18-6.
This season, Anderson didn’t start well. “We started a 1-3 in the conference,” said AU coach Tony Holloway. “We won 11 of 12 down the stretch so I feel pretty good about how we finished.”
But it still wasn’t enough to win the title, which fell to the Manchester Spartans at 11-3 compared to Anderson’s 12-4. So the Ravens are on the road to North Manchester at the No. 2 seed and will play the No. 3 seeded Bluffton Beavers (9-5) today at 10 a.m. Manchester plays No. 4 Franklin in a noon contest.
The Beavers are led by freshman Ashley Knippen. She is batting .444 with 14 runs scored, six doubles, and 13 RBIs during league play. As a team, Bluffton’s offense ranks second in the league with a .329 batting average and 101 runs scored, while leading the HCAC with 10 home runs.
That doesn’t particularly worry the Ravens, who hosted and defeated the Beavers twice.
“I am not so much worried about who we play as how we play,” said Holloway.
AU has seven seniors who aren’t ready to stop playing Ravens softball yet. “They know that if we lose twice this weekend, then when they take off the uniform, it will be for the last time,” said Holloway. “But on Wednesday we had as loose and as carefree a practice as we’ve had.”
Should the Ravens lose, they will play again at 2 p.m. If they win, they will play at 4 p.m.
“I would like to have at least four hours between our games,” said Holloway. “If we only have two hours then we’ve got some work to do. We know that two wins on Friday takes a lot of pressure off you. That means someone else has to come up through the loser’s bracket while you wait and then they have to beat you twice.”
The Ravens will send Greenfield freshman Sami Frazier into the circle as the starting pitcher. She leads the conference with a 0.17 ERA. She is also second in strikeouts.
“Sami has got a lot of poise,” said Holloway. “You’d never know by watching her that she’s a freshman. She threw against Bluffton the first time and gave up four hits and no earned runs.”
Anderson’s offense has been the best in the HCAC this season, ranking first in batting (.368), runs scored (107), triples (5) and stolen bases (39). AU’s pitching staff has been the top staff in the HCAC this spring, posting a 2.47 ERA during league play.
The tournament will finish on Saturday, with games at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.