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NFCA's "Featured Five" Games for March 21-23

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Throughout the 2014 softball season, the NFCA has been featuring some of the sport's highest-profile contests in our "Featured Five" Games of the Week segment.

Each weekly installment is released on Thursday, providing live stat links, official web sites, game notes, returnee info, Twitter accounts and any available broadcast links in hopes of becoming another source for fans to visit during the season for information on some of collegiate softball's best games.

As the year continues, we are attempting to expand our focus to include match-ups throughout as many divisions as possible. This week's featured games come from NCAA Division I, NCAA Division II and NCAA Division III.

We may not be able to highlight every division or big game each week, but our hope is to provide a spotlight for as many different teams as possible throughout 2014.

Make sure you follow the NFCA on social media through Twitter (@NFCAorg) and on Facebook (NFCA) and let us know what you think of our new "Featured Five" segment.

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#9 Alabama at #1 Florida

Site: Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium, Gainesville, Fla.

Date/Game Time: Fri., March 21, 6 p.m. ET; Sat., March 22, 1 p.m. ET; Sun., March 23, 1 p.m. ET

Radio/TV Coverage: FOX SPORTS FLORIDA-FRI. | COMCAST SPORTS SOUTHEAST-SAT. | SUNSHINE NETWORK-SUN. | Florida Radio (ALL THREE GAMES)

Follow them on Twitter: @AlabamaSB, @GatorZoneSBall

Live Stats: #9 Alabama at #1 Florida (GM-1) (GM-2) (GM-3)

Game Notes/Official Sites: Alabama Softball Official Site | Florida Softball Official Site | Florida Game Notes

All About #9 Alabama: Leading the Southeastern Conference at a perfect 6-0 and with an eight-game winning streak in tow, ninth-ranked Alabama ventures into its pivotal early-season series against longtime rival No. 1 Florida on a roll. Under the guidance of head coach Patrick Murphy, the Crimson Tide rates as the second-best hitting team in the league by average at .343 while crossing the dish at a solid 7.7 run-per-game clip. UA has blasted 31 HR’s, owns a league-leading 11 triples and has swiped 51 bases (third). From a pitching/defensive standpoint, ‘Bama rates fifth in the league in ERA (1.87) and 10th in fielding percentage (.966). 2013 NFCA All-American outfielder Haylie McCleney continues to build on her growing legend, topping the SEC charts with a staggering .563 batting average in addition to six doubles, seven HR’s and 19 stolen bases. Seniors Molly Fichtner (.444 avg., eight doubles, two HR’s, 23 RBIs) and Kaila Hunt (NFCA All-American - .400 avg., seven HR’s, 22 RBIs) round out the top three Alabama players by average. The Tide has utilized three different pitchers for at least 32.2 innings during 2014, including junior Leslie Jury (11.2, 1.73 ERA, 70 K, 77 IP), senior Jackie Traina (9-2, 2.10 ERA, 89 K, 73.1 IP) and freshman Sydney Littlejohn (5-0, 1.71 ERA, 29 K, 32.2 IP).

All About #1 Florida: At just 4-2 thus far in SEC play, the top-ranked Gators will be looking to close a two-game gap that has developed between themselves and first-place Alabama in the league standings. UF enters this weekend’s action fresh off  both a series win at nationally ranked LSU (March 14-16) and an 8-2 triumph over Central Connecticut State (March 18). The Orange & Blue’s biggest strength, at least statistically on first glance, would appear to be pitching as its team ERA of 1.45 is good enough to rate second in the conference. The Gator offense is no slouch, however, ranking just seventh in the league in average (.318) but second in on-base percentage (.459), hits (251) and RBIs (210) and third in both HR’s (39) and runs scored (229). Sophomore second baseman Kelsey Stewart, a 2013 NFCA All-Southeast Region selection, holds squad-highs in batting average (.430), runs scored (39) and stolen bases (20) while adding 13 extra-base hits and 31 RBIs. Junior NFCA All-American Lauren Haeger (.344 avg., team-best 10 HR’s & 35 RBIs) and senior NFCA All-Southeast Region choice Stephanie Tofft (.314 avg., five HR’s, 33 RBIs) round out a trio of Gators with at least 30 RBIs. Two-time NFCA All-American senior Hannah Rogers tops a solid UF contingent in the circle at 12-2 overall with a 1.21 ERA and 74 strikeouts over 80.2 innings. Freshman left-hander Delanie Gourley (11-0, 1.55 ERA, 77 K’s, 67.2 IP) and Haeger (6-0, 1.80 ERA, 42 K’s, 50.2 IP) have both provided at least 50 solid innings in support.

Some Additional Major Division I Games This Weekend:

#2 UCLA at #5 Washington PAC-12 NETWORK (SUN & MON.) | LIVE STATS (GM-1) (GM-2) (GM-3) | UW AUDIO (All Three Games) – Sat., March 22 at 5 p.m. ET; Sun., March 23 at 6 p.m. ET; Mon., March 24 at 5 p.m. ET

#14 Georgia at #15 Texas A&MTX A&M AUDIO | TX A&M VIDEO (PAY) | LIVE STATS (ALL THREE GAMES)Fri., March 21 at 8 p.m. ET; Sat., March 22 at 5 p.m. ET; Sun., March 23 at 1 p.m. ET

#24 Stanford at #11 Arizona StateASU VIDEO (GM-1) | PAC-12 NETWORK (SUN./MON.) – Sat., March 22 at 10 p.m. ET; Sun., March 23 at 10 p.m. ET; Mon., March 24 at 7 p.m. ET

#RV LSU at #22 Oklahoma SOONER SPORTS TV LISTINGS (BOTH GAMES ON FOX SPORTS SW VIA DISH NETWORK/DIRECT TV, ETC.) | OU AUDIO (BOTH GAMES - PAY) | LIVE STATS (BOTH GAMES) – Sat., March 22 at 3 p.m. ET (DH) & Sun., March 23 at 1 p.m. ET

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#16 Minnesota at #17 Nebraska

Site: Bowlin Stadium, Lincoln, Neb.

Dates/Game Times: Friday, March 21 at 7 p.m. ET; Sat., March 22 at 2 p.m. ET; Sun., March 23 at 2 p.m. ET

Radio/TV Coverage: Nebraska Audio (ALL THREE GAMES)

Follow them on Twitter: @GopherSoftball, @HuskerSoftball

Live Stats: Nebraska Live Stats (ALL THREE GAMES) | Minnesota Gametracker (GM-1) (GM-2) (GM-3)

Game Notes/Official Sites: Minnesota Softball Official Site | Nebraska Softball Official Site

All About #16 Minnesota: The (22-3) Gophers come into the weekend having won their last six games and eight of their last nine. Junior Kaitlyn Richardson is hitting .446 with eight doubles and a .800 slugging percentage, while fellow junior Tyler Walker has a team-best 30 hits (four doubles, four triples and two homers) to go along with a .380 average. Two other juniors, Hannah Granger (.353) and Madie Eckstrom (.333), rank third and fourth on the team in batting, but have considerably fewer at-bats. Meanwhile, the trio of sophomore Nikki Anderson (2-1, 1.06 ERA, 33 strikeouts in 26.1 innings), senior Sara Moulton (15-2, 1.17 ERA, 150 strikeouts in 102 innings) and freshman Sara Groenwegen (5-0 with 60 strikeouts in 36.2 innings) have combined to hold opponents to a .179 average while compiling a 1.57 staff ERA and fanning 243 over 165 innings. Moulton recently earned her 1000th career strikeout and became the first Gopher pitcher to reach the 100-win mark.

All About #17 Nebraska: The No. 17 Huskers enter this weekend’s action on a season-best, four-game winning streak following both a successful run through the Jayhawk Invitational in Lawrence, Kan., and a 10-3 mid-week home rout over Iowa State. Nebraska’s resume is very impressive with victories during the 2014 season over nationally ranked teams Florida State, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Washington. The squad is hitting .at a .278 clip and scoring approximately 4.5 runs-per-contest, while its pitchers have limited the opposition to a .201 average and 2.1 RPG. For the Huskers it’s often a dynamic sister-duo that leads the way as Taylor Edwards guides the offensive attack at .463 overall with 21 runs scored, eight HR’s and 18 RBIs, while sibling Tatum Edwards is 9-5 from the circle with a squad-best 1.35 ERA and 84 strikeouts over 93.2 innings. In all six Huskers have contributed at least 10 RBIs, highlighted by 14 each from sophomore Hailey Decker (.315 avg., 11 extra-base hits, 14 RBIs) and freshman infielder Marjani (MJ) Knighten  (.250 avg., five doubles, two HR’s). Sophomore right-hander Emily Lockman has provided tremendous support from the circle, recording a 10-3 mark with a 2.03 ERA and 65 K’s over 86.1 frames.

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#1 West Texas A&M at #18 Texas Woman’s – DIVISION II

Site: Pioneer Field, Denton, Texas

Date/ Game Time: Fri., March 21 (DH) at 6 & 8 p.m. ET; Sat., March 22 (DH) at 2 & 4 p.m. ET

Radio/TV Coverage: TWU Live Video (ALL THREE GAMES)

Follow them on Twitter: @WTSoftball, @TWUPioneers

Live Stats: #1 West Texas A&M at #18 Texas Woman’s (GM-1) (GM-2) (GM-3) (GM-4)

Official Sites: West Texas A&M Softball Official Site | West Texas A&M Game Notes | Texas Woman’s Softball Official Site

All About #1 West Texas A&M: The top-ranked Lady Buffs enter their match-up against Lone Star Conference rival Texas Woman’s at 24-3 overall after splitting a pair of contests (beat Texas A&M-Kingsville, 12-4 in 6 inn; lost to Cameron, 9-8) during last weekend’s weather-plagued Lone Star Showcase. Despite being ranked No. 1 in the country, and highlighting the overall importance of this weekend’s four-game series for both programs on both the conference and national levels, the Lady Buffs are currently deadlocked with TWU for third in the league standings, two games behind Angelo State and Midwestern State. West Texas A&M possesses one of the top offenses in the LSC, guiding the way in doubles (57), triples (12), slugging percentage (.629) and on-base percentage (.464), while rating second in RBIs (191) and third in both batting average (.346) and HR’s (41). Junior outfielder Renee Erwin, a 2013 NFCA All-South Central Region selection, tops the offense at .500 overall with 30 runs scored and team-highs in doubles (11), HR’s (9) and RBIs (32). Senior infielder Jessica Sipe (.411 avg., 25 runs, 16 extra-base hits, 26 RBIs) and junior utility player Kaisha Dacosin (.342 avg., 19 runs, six doubles, five HR’s, 29 RBIs) round out the top RBI producers. The Lady Buffs utilize a pitching “staff” in the truest sense as three hurlers have each tossed at least 32 innings in 2014, combining for the LSC’s top team ERA at 2.15. Leading the way is JC transfer Rita Hokianga, a New Zealand-native who holds a 10-2 record with a 2.22 ERA and 125 strikeouts over 85 frames. Sophomore Hannah Newcomb has added an 8-1 mark with a 1.72 ERA and 35 K’s over 57 frames, while sophomore Tori Bayer is at 6-0 overall with a 2.62 ERA and 29 K’s in 32 innings.

All About #18 Texas Woman’s: Four losses in the last six games, including a road sweep at the hands of Lone Star Conference co-leader Angelo State, have knocked Texas Woman’s off a once lofty perch that saw the Pioneers climb as high as No. 4 in the national poll. That’s not to say that the defending LSC regular-season and tournament champions don’t remain a dangerous foe, far from it, as head coach Genny Stidham’s charges currently boast both the No. 2 batting average (.353) and ERA (3.12) in the league. TWU ranks third offensively in hits (256) and fourth in RBIs (162), doubles (40), runs scored (188) and HR’s (27). Junior infielder Kendra Sancet leads in most major offensive categories, topping the squad in batting average (.450), HR’s (12), RBIs (38) and slugging percentage (.975). Former two-time NFCA Golden Shoe award winner (nation’s top base stealer) Bailey Vrazel, a senior infielder, is at .407 overall with a team-best 27 runs scored and 20 steals in 22 attempts. Freshman utility player Alyssa Galaz (.361 avg., six HR) and senior utility player and 2013 NFCA All-South Region selection Katie Hines (.313 avg., four HR’s) have contributed 27 and 26 RBIs, respectively. Senior pitcher Brandie Lander has been the top choice from the circle, holding a 13-2 record with a 2.39 ERA and 76 strikeouts over 102.1 innings, while Hines (5-5 record, 4.30 ERA, 35 K, 58.2 IP) has provided the majority of the pitching support.

 

Some Additional Major Division II Games This Weekend:

#RV Columbus State at #4 Armstrong Atlantic (DH)NO LIVE STATS – Fri., March 21 at 2 & 4 p.m. ET

#5 Augustana (SD) vs. #12 Emporia StateNO LIVE STATS – Sat., March 22 at 11 a.m. ET

#RV Truman State at #13 UMSL (DH) LIVE STATS (BOTH GAMES) – Sun., March 23 at 1 & 3 p.m. ET

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#1 Salisbury at #18 Christopher Newport – DIVISION III

Site: Captains Park, Newport News, Va.

Date/Game Times: Sun., March 23, 1 & 3 p.m. ET

Follow them on Twitter: @suseagulls, @CNUathletics

Live Stats: #1 Salisbury at #18 Christopher Newport 

Game Notes/Official Sites: Salisbury Softball Official Site | Christopher Newport Softball Official Site

All About #1 Salisbury: The undefeated (14-0) Sea Gulls won four games last week to move up two places from the third-place perch they had held all season and supplant reigning national champion Tufts for the No. 1 spot in this week’s NFCA Division III Top 25 rankings. Salisbury received five of the eight available first-place votes, as the Jumbos slid down to No. 2 after starting their season 3-1 and Montclair State (7-1) dropped from second to third following a 5-1 week. Sophomores Paige Knussman (four doubles, three homers, .950 slugging percentage) and Kim Dorsey (seven doubles, six homers, 1.300 slugging percentage) are both batting .625 (25-of-40) to lead the Sea Gulls’ offense, with junior infielder Rebecca Hoey (.424) and sophomore utility player Molly Simpson (.405) the other starters hitting over .400. Junior Rachel Johnson (0.00 ERA, 81 strikeouts in 42.2 innings, 9-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, opponent batting average .104), last week’s Louisville Slugger/NFCA Division III National Pitcher of the Week, and senior teammate Kathryn Larson (1.63 ERA, 3.6-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio) are both 7-0 splitting time in the circle.

All About #18 Christopher Newport: The (15-3) Captains are in the midst of a 15-game win streak, including a perfect 10-0 record at Captains Park, and play two home games Friday with Lynchburg before Sunday’s twinbill with the nation’s top-ranked team. Senior shortstop Candice Zollars (.419 average, two doubles, 4-for-4 on stolen bases) and sophomore infielder Alexis Pope (.418 average, four doubles, three homers, 13 RBI) pace the offense, while freshman catcher Karlee Holzbach (.385 average, 15 hits, nine RBI) and junior first baseman Sabrina Hill (.375 average, team-leading six doubles, six homers and 17 RBI) also are top contributors. Sophomores Krista Lewis (9-1 record, 1.45 ERA. .205 opponent average) and Hanah Marshall (6-2 record, six complete games) have divided the innings equally, while freshman Makayla Jenkins (four appearances, no earned runs allowed, nine strikeouts in 8.2 innings) has excelled in a relief role.

 

Some Additional Major Division III Games This Weekend:

#4 Tufts vs. #23 North Central (Ill.) at National Training Center Spring Games in Clermont, Fla. – Sat., March 22 at 11 a.m. ET

#10 Linfield at #9 Texas-Tyler (Ford Tailgate Series) LIVE STATSLIVE VIDEO – Fri., March 21 at 5 & 7 p.m. ET

#10 Linfield at #5 East Texas Baptist – Sat., March 22 at 3 & 5 p.m. ET

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#17 Augustana vs. #12 Coe – DIVISION III

Site: Washington (Mo.) University Tournament, St. Louis, Mo.

Dates/Game Times: Fri., March 22, 1 p.m. ET & Sat., March 23, 11 a.m. ET

Follow them on Twitter: @augiesid, @CoeAthletics

Live Stats: #17 Augustana vs. #12 Coe 

Game Notes/Official Sites: Augustana Softball Official Site | Coe Softball Official Site

All About #17 Augustana: The (10-2) Vikings, which moved up two spots in this week’s NFCA Division III Top 25, come into the tournament having won five straight and nine of their last 10 games. Junior outfielder Laura Behnke leads an offense batting .336 as a group in 11 offensive categories, including average (.514), runs scored (14), hits (19), triples (six), homers (three), RBI (19), total bases (44), walks (six), hit by pitch (two), slugging percentage (1.189) and on-base average (.587). Senior shortstop Krista Watson (.390 average, six doubles, three triples) and junior second baseman Jenna Teson (.390 average, four doubles, 10 RBI) are also top contributors, while sophomore pitcher Ashley Anderson (11 RBI) and senior first baseman Jaime Rehmert (eight RBI) have been adept at driving in runs. Senior right-hander Sarah Hintz (7-0 record, 0.79 ERA, 24 hits in 44.1 innings) and lefty Anderson (3-2 record in six appearances, including four starts) form a strong 1-2 punch in the circle.

All About #12 Coe: The (10-1) Kohawks will have had two weeks since their last game after Wednesday’s doubleheader at Iowa Wesleyan was postponed. Coe has won five straight games. The senior trio of outfielder Danielle Schlotterbeck (.417, two doubles, six RBI), catcher Abby Flannagan (.375, four doubles, two homers, 12 RBI) and infielder/outfielder Nicole Gentile (.375, 12 runs scored, two doubles, eight stolen bases) have accounted for 54 of the team’s 109 total bases this season. In the circle, senior Maddison Woodruff (6-0, 1.08 ERA, 24 strikeouts in 25 innings) and sophomore Arran Weeces (3-0, 2.12 ERA, 44 strikeouts in 34 innings) are unbeaten, while freshman Maliah Fligg (one complete game in three starts) has the squad’s other victory.

 

Additional Games Between Ranked Teams At the Washington (Mo.) Univ. Tournament:

#17 Augustana vs. #19 Washington (Mo.) UniversityLIVE STATS – Fri., March 22 at 9 a.m. ET & Sat., March 23 at 1 p.m. ET

#RV Illinois Wesleyan at #19 Washington (Mo.) University LIVE STATS – Fri., March 22 at 11 a.m. ET

#12 Coe vs. #RV Illinois Wesleyan LIVE STATS – Fri., March 22 at 3 p.m. ET

#12 Coe at #19 Washington (Mo.) University LIVE STATS – Sat., March 23 at 9 a.m. ET