April 29, 2014

Big Red returns to NCAC Tournament

For the 12th time in the 14-year history of the North Coast Athletic Conference postseason, the Denison softball team will be part of the four-team field at the annual NCAC Softball Tournament on May 2-3.

The Big Red posted a 4-2 conference record in the final week of the regular season to earn a tournament berth. This season will mark the second time DU enters the postseason tournament as the third seed. Three tournament championships have been won by the No. 3 seed, including a 2008 title by the Denison. As a program, the Big Red has captured the NCAC Tournament crown a league-best six times.

For the second-straight season, the DePauw Tigers will serve as the host site for the tournament. Wittenberg and Ohio Wesleyan join DePauw and Denison to make up the four-team field in the double elimination tournament.

The Big Red secured the third spot in the tournament field with a doubleheader split with Kenyon in the regular season finale on Sunday in Granville. With runners at the corners and two outs in the bottom of the ninth, freshman Ryan Lee ripped a single into right center that scored Kerry Hager. Senior pitcher Rebecca Dyer improved to 11-3 after allowing three runs on seven hits with a career-high 14 strikeouts.

Junior Julie Rooney, and seniors Rachel Laughlin and Gretchen Staubach are all hitting over .300 to pace the DU offense this season.  Rooney enters the tournament with a .393 average, a team-high nine doubles, six RBIs and 13 runs. In eight games last week, the junior hit .533 (16-for-30) with three doubles, five runs, four RBIs and a .633 slugging percentage. With last week's performance, she improved her batting average by 48 points. Additionally, Rooney made 17 putouts and had 11 assists without committing an error last week. She also helped turn two double plays on Sunday against the Ladies.

Laughlin boasts a .361 batting average with eight doubles and two triples. She also leads the team with 20 RBIs and 17 runs. Staubach has three triples, five home runs and a .609 slugging percentage, all team highs. She is also a .322 hitter with four doubles, 17 runs scored and 16 RBIs. Hager and senior Meghan Edwards have also provided pop in the DU lineup this season. The freshman center fielder recorded seven doubles, a triple and a home run to go along with 17 RBIs and 14 runs scored.  Edwards has legged out five doubles and left the park four times this season. The four-year starting catcher has scored 15 times and driven in 15 more runs.

Dyer has been a staple inside the circle this year for the Big Red. The senior hurler will carry a 1.18 earned-run average into the postseason tournament. She has tossed 12 complete games, including seven shutouts, during her final season in Granville. Earlier this season, she set the school-record for career shutouts. Dyer is also eight strikeouts away from breaking the Denison career mark set by DU Hall of Famer, Courtney Zollars (479). Freshman Erin Laswell has also provided a young spark for the Big Red pitching staff, going 5-5 with a 2.28 ERA. In her first year, Laswell has tossed six complete games, including one shutout, with 28 strikeouts.

Denison will open the tournament against second-seeded Wittenberg on Friday at 10 a.m., while top-seeded DePauw and fourth-seeded Ohio Wesleyan will take the field at 12 p.m.