KANSAS CITY, Mo. – (Pairings) (Video Selection Show) The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) has officially announced the 40-team field and pairings for the 2017 NAIA Softball National Championship Opening Round. The event will take place from May 15 - 17 at ten different locations. The format is a double-elimination, four-team tournament. For more information on the 10 host sites, click here.
The 40-team field is comprised of 31 automatic qualifiers and nine at-large berths. The 18 conferences receive one berth per six teams and two berths per ten teams. In addition, one Unaffiliated Group (Association of Independent Institutions / Gulf Coast) earns two berths. At-large teams were determined using the final regular-season Coaches' Top 25 Poll released today, which can be accessed here.
Overall, there are 22 repeat qualifiers from the 2016 NAIA National Championship Opening Round.
Five programs punched their first-ever ticket to the opening round: Cumberlands (Ky.), Edward Waters (Fla.), Jamestown (N.D.), Vanguard (Calif.) and Warner (Fla.).
The 2017 opening round marks the fifth year of this format. Overall, there are five teams that have owned the distinction of participating in all opening rounds since the event began in 2013: Davenport (Mich.), Lindsey Wilson (Ky.), LSU Alexandria (La.), Oklahoma City and Reinhardt (Ga.).
Oklahoma City claims three previous opening round titles, which is tied with former member Auburn Montgomery (Ala.) for the most of any program.
Oklahoma City holds the most wins on the season (61), as well as the most all-time opening round victories (12). Lindsey Wilson is next with 11 opening round wins.
Since the opening round format began in 2013, the top seed has been the champion in 27-of-40 events. The No. 2 seed has won nine Opening Rounds, while No. 3 College of Idaho (in 2014), No. 3 Dickinson State (N.D.) (in 2015) and No. 3 Williams Baptist (Ark.) (2016) are the only No. 3 seeds to win their events. A No. 4 seed won their bracket for the first time in 2016 with Webber International (Fla.) winning the Reinhardt (Ga.) Bracket with a record of 3-0.
Opening round hosts have recorded an all-time combined mark of 98-42.
Five conferences landed a trio of teams in the opening round: American Midwest Conference, Cascade Collegiate Conference, Crossroads League, Mid-South Conference and the Southern States Athletic Conference.
Three national champions will be participating in the 2017 opening round: Mobile (Ala.) (2006), Oklahoma City (9/2016 most recent) and Oregon Tech (2011). Oklahoma City won its NAIA-record ninth overall softball championship last year.
The champions from each of the 10 opening round tournaments will advance to the 37th annual NAIA Softball World Series in Clermont, Fla., from May 26 – June 1. These programs will participate in a double-elimination national championship at the Legends Way Ball Fields. Last year, Oklahoma City defeated Saint Xavier (Ill.), 5-0, in the “if necessary” game June 2. The World Series bracket will be announced late in the day on May 17. Advanced World Series tickets may be purchased by clicking here.
For more information on the 2017 NAIA Softball National Championship, click here.
-- Courtesy of the NAIA