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NFCA's "Featured Five" Games for March 28-30

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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#4 Florida at #3 Tennessee

Site: Sherri Parker Lee Stadium, Knoxville, Tenn.

Dates/Game Times: Fri., March 28, 6 p.m. ET; Sat., March 29, 1 p.m. ET; Sun., March 30, 1 p.m. ET

Radio/TV Coverage: Florida Radio (Game 1) | Florida Radio (Games 2 & 3) | Tennessee Radio (Game 2) | Tennessee Radio (Game 3) | LIVE VIDEO (Game 1) | ESPN3 TV (Game 2) | ESPN3 TV (Game 3)

Follow them on Twitter: @GatorZoneSBall, @LadyVol_Sftball 

Live Stats: #4 Florida at #3 Tennessee (GM-1) | (GM-2) | (GM-3) 

Game Notes/Official Sites: Florida Game Notes | Florida Softball Official Site | Tennessee Softball Central/Notes | Tennessee Softball Official Site

All About #4 Florida: The (31-4 overall, 5-4 SEC) Gators are ranked No. 3 in the first NCAA Ratings Percentage Index of the season heading into a key Southeastern Conference weekend series. Florida is tied with in-state rival Florida State for the most victories in the country. Sophomore second baseman Kelsey Stewart (.402 average, six doubles, four triples, four homers, 33 RBI) has reached base in every game and has scored 39 runs. Junior outfielder Brianna Little (.364 average, three stolen bases) and freshman outfielder Justine McLean (.342, 28 runs scored, 10 stolen bases) are both hitting better than .340, while junior first baseman/pitcher Lauren Haeger (.323 average, .646 slugging percentage) has a team-best 10 homers and 35 RBI. Sophomore utility player Taylore Fuller had her second grand slam of the season in Wednesday’s 10-6 triumph over the University of Central Florida, while sophomore first baseman Taylor Schwarz had a solo homer against UCF and has three homers in her last six games following a 19-game power outage. Senior Hannah Rogers (14-3, 1.57 ERA, 79 strikeouts in 93.2 innings), freshman Delanie Gourley (11-1, 2.08 ERA, 92 strikeouts in 80.2 innings) and Haeger (6-0, 1.73 ERA, 46 strikeouts in 52.2 innings) have formed a powerful trio in the circle. Florida leads the all-time series with the Lady Vols, 43-21 and is 15-11 in games played in Knoxville.

All About #3 Tennessee: The (28-3 overall, 5-1 SEC) Lady Vols come into the matchup of USA Today/NFCA Top 25 powers riding a five-game win streak and have captured nine of their last 10 contests. Senior shortstop Madison Shipman (.433 average, nine doubles, eight homers) is the reigning SEC Player of the Week after batting .429 with a grand slam and seven RBI in last weekend’s three-game sweep of South Carolina. Freshman catcher/infielder Annie Aldrete (.393 average, eight doubles, two triples, five homers), senior outfielder/infielder Melissa Davin (.347 average, nine doubles, six homers, team-leading 30 RBI) and freshman Megan Geer (.340, team-best 31 runs scored, nine doubles, 13 stolen bases) also highlight the potent Tennessee offense. Senior Ellen Renfroe (18-0, 1.34 ERA, 142 strikeouts in 120 innings) and sophomore Erin Gabriel (5-0, 1.98 ERA, 37 strikeouts in 35.1 innings) are both unbeaten in the circle, while sophomore Rainey Gaffin (4-2, 1.63 ERA, 37 strikeouts in 30 innings) has also been tough on opposing batters. The teams split their four games last season, including a dominant UT win over the Gators at the WCWS. Two or fewer runs have decided five of the last six meetings between the two and four of the last five have gone to extra innings. Tennessee is 11-6 all-time against the Gators when ranked higher than them. This is the first time they will meet while both ranked in the top four.

 

Some Additional Major Division I Games This Weekend:

#5 Washington at #2 Oregon PAC-12 NETWORK (ALL THREE GAMES) | LIVE STATS (GM-1) (GM-2) (GM-3) – Fri., March 28 at 6 p.m. ET; Sat., March 29 at 6 p.m. ET; Sun., March 30 at 6 p.m. ET

#13 Georgia at #16 MissouriMIZZOU VIDEO (PAY) (GM-1) (GM-2) (GM-3) | GEORGIA RADIO (GM-1) (GM-2) (GM-3) | LIVE STATS (GM-1) (GM-2) (GM-3) – Fri., March 28 at 7:30 p.m. ET; Sat., March 29 at 3 p.m. ET; Sun., March 30 at 1 p.m. ET 

#21 Auburn at #10 KentuckyUK VIDEO (PAY) (GM-1) (GM-2) (GM-3) | LIVE STATS (GM-1) (GM-2) (GM-3) – Fri., March 28 at 6 p.m. ET; Sat., March 29 at 3 p.m. ET; Sun., March 30 at 1 p.m. ET

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#8 Arizona at #11 Arizona State

Site: Farrington Softball Stadium, Tempe, Ariz.

Dates/Game Times: Friday, March 28 at 7 p.m. ET; Sat., March 29 at 9 p.m. ET; Sun., March 30 at 9 p.m. ET

Radio/TV Coverage: Pacific-12 Network (ALL THREE GAMES)

Follow them on Twitter: @UA_Softball, @ASUSoftball

Live Stats: #8 Arizona at #11 Arizona State (ALL THREE GAMES)

Game Notes/Official Sites: Arizona Softball Official Site | Arizona Preview/Notes | Arizona State Softball Official Site

All About #8 Arizona: The (28-6 overall, 3-3 Pac-12) Wildcats face their archrival Sun Devils after scorching Oregon State 36-2 in a three-game sweep that featured three mercy-rule shortened games. Arizona leads the nation in batting average (.361), home runs (54) and slugging percentage (.638), and ranks third in Division I in scoring (7.94 runs/game).  Junior catcher Chelsea Goodacre (.330 average, five doubles, 48 RBI) is tied for the NCAA lead in homers with 13, while junior shortstop Kellie Fox (.444 average, five doubles, 38 runs scored) has 12, which ranks fifth. Senior catcher/utility player Kelsey Rodriguez (11 doubles) leads the team in hitting with a .462 (36-of-78) mark, while Alex Lavine (.459) ranks second. On defense, the Wildcats have the second-ranked fielding percentage (.980) nationally and boast the country’s 10th-best ERA (1.47). Senior Estela Pinon (9-4, 1.09 ERA) leads the way in the circle with 64 strikeouts in 64 innings. Undefeated sophomore Nancy Bowling (6-0, 1.37 ERA, 53 strikeouts in 46 innings) and freshman Michelle Floyd (4-0, 0.70 ERA), plus redshirt senior Kenzie Fowler (5-3, 1.70 ERA) have all been similarly stingy in the runs department.

All About #11 Arizona State: The 11-rated Sun Devils enter action against their in-state rival Arizona at 30-5 overall and third in the Pac-12 standings at 4-2, a game ahead of the Wildcats. ASU is fresh off a home league sweep of then-No. 24 Stanford, requiring every ounce of what its second-ranked conference offense could produce to outscore the Cardinal by an overall count of 32-20, including 16-15 (9 inn.) in the series opener. Arizona State is hitting .349 overall as a team (third in the NCAA), scoring at a 7.1 run-per-game clip and has blasted 46 HR’s while rating fifth in the Pac-12 in both ERA (1.70) and fielding percentage (.966). Junior catcher Amber Freeman, a 2013 NFCA First Team All-American, guides the offensive assault with the fourth-best average in the conference (.447) to go along with five HR’s, 29 RBIs and a team-leading .518 on-base percentage. In all seven different Sun Devil batters possess at least 20 RBIs, led by junior third baseman Haley Steele (.358 avg., six HR’s, team-high 34 RBIs), senior shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (.340 avg., eight HR’s, 30 RBIs) and senior outfielder Alix Johnson (.341 avg., 36 runs scored, six HR’s, 30 RBIs). ASU is very experienced in the circle with a pair of seniors, NFCA All-American Dallas Escobedo (13-4, 1.60 ERA, Pac-12-high 175 K’s, 113.2 IP) and Mackenzie Popescue (15-1, 1.47 ERA, 48 K, 86 IP), each having twirled at least 86 innings.

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#19 Nebraska at #23 Northwestern

Site: The Ballpark at Rosemont, Rosemont, Ill. & Sharon J. Drysdale Field, Evanston, Ill.

Date/Game Time: Fri., March 28, 12:30 p.m. ET (Rosemont, Ill.); Sat., March 29, 5 p.m. ET (Rosemont, Ill.); Sun., March 30, 1 p.m. ET (Drysdale Field) ***(if Sharon J. Drysdale Field is deemed unplayable for Sunday, teams may play a DH on Saturday in Rosemont, Ill.)

Radio/TV Coverage: Northwestern Radio (GM-1) (GM-2) (GM-3) | Nebraska Radio (ALL THREE GAMES)

Follow them on Twitter: @HuskerSoftball, @NUSBCats

Live Stats: #19 Nebraska at #23 Northwestern (GM-1) (GM-2) (GM-3)

Game Notes/Official Sites: Nebraska Softball Official Site | Nebraska Preview & Game Notes | Northwestern Softball Official Site

All About #19 Nebraska: The 19th-rated Huskers (21-10, 1-2 Big Ten) will look to get back on track in the league after dropping two-of-three during its Big Ten opening series against nationally ranked Minnesota (March 21-23). Nebraska’s resume is impressive with additional high-profile 2014 victories over nationally ranked teams Florida State, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Washington. The squad is hitting .at a .268 clip (seventh in the Big Ten) and scoring approximately 4.5 runs-per-contest, while its pitchers have limited the opposition to a .210 average and 2.5 RPG. For the Huskers it’s often the dynamic sister-duo that leads the way as Taylor Edwards guides the offensive attack at .444 overall (third in the league) with a team-best 26 runs scored, nine HR’s and 19 RBIs, while sibling Tatum Edwards is 11-6 from the circle with a squad-high 1.49 ERA and 106 strikeouts over 112.2 innings, while also having added four HR’s and 16 RBIs. In all six Huskers have contributed at least 10 RBIs, highlighted by 23 from sophomore Hailey Decker (.317 avg., 14 extra-base hits, including 10 doubles) and 14 from freshman infielder Marjani (MJ) Knighten  (.236 avg., six doubles, two HR’s). Sophomore right-hander Emily Lockman has provided tremendous support from the circle, recording a 10-4 mark with a 2.35 ERA and 66 K’s over 92.1 frames.

All About #23 Northwestern: The Wildcats (18-6 overall, 2-1 Big Ten), under the guidance of 13th-year head coach Kate Drohan, prep to battle Nebraska having won eight of their last 10 contests, including two-of-three last weekend against Wisconsin during their Big Ten Conference opening set. NU’s offense has been prolific thus far, rating ninth in all of Division I and tops in the league in batting average (.344), and first in the conference in on-base percentage (.439), slugging percentage (.501), RBIs (152) and runs scored (173). That scoring proficiency been a real key to the team’s success as the pitching staff ranks just seventh out of 12 Big Ten teams in ERA at 3.18. Senior Emily Allard (IF/OF) guides the offense average-wise at .411 overall with a team-leading 25 runs scored and 15 stolen bases. Senior infielder Marisa Bast (.380 avg., four HR’s) sits second in the league with 32 RBIs, while sophomore infielder Andrea Filler has contributed a .397 average, nine extra-base hits and 20 RBIs. The ‘Cats have utilized four pitchers during the 2014 campaign with sophomore Kristen Wood (9-2, 3.59 ERA, 94 K’s, 74 IP) and senior Sammy Albanese (5-3, 3.61 ERA, 29 K’s, 40.2 IP) having drawn the most time in the circle.

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#RV North Alabama at #8 Alabama-Huntsville – DIVISION II

Site: Charger Park, Huntsville, Ala.

Date/ Game Time: Sat., March 29 (DH) at 3 & 5 p.m. ET; Sun., March 30 at 2 p.m. ET

Radio/TV Coverage: None 

Follow them on Twitter: @UNARoarLions, @UAHChargers

Live Stats: #RV North Alabama at #8 Alabama-Huntsville (ALL THREE GAMES)

Official Sites: North Alabama Softball Official Site | Alabama-Huntsville Softball Official Site

All About #RV North Alabama: North Alabama enters this weekend’s series against nationally ranked UAH at 28-8 overall and leading the current Gulf South Conference standings at 13-5 (actually second behind Shorter who isn’t eligible for postseason play). UNA is currently on a two-game losing streak, however, having dropped the final two games of a three-contest set over March 22-23 to Union.  The Lions currently own the top pitching staff in the league by ERA at 1.71, while the offense leads in total hits (325), rates second in runs scored (233), HR’s (40) and RBIs (221) and is third in overall batting average at .322. Recent Louisville Slugger/NFCA Division II National Player of the Week selection Chloe Wolf (Jr., 1B) leads the way offensively at .370 overall with 15 extra-base hits, including seven HR”s, and 31 RBIs. Junior outfielder Chelsea Showers has added a .358 average, a team-leading nine HR’s and 22 RBIs, while senior outfielder Shelby Goodman (.342 avg., 7 HR’s) guides the squad in both doubles (nine) and RBIs (32). The top two pitchers in the league by ERA, rookie Hillary Carpenter (13-4, 1.38 ERA, 63 K’s, 117 IP) and junior BreeAnna Blevins (14-4, 1.92 ERA, 134 K’s, 124 IP) have each tossed over 100 total frames.

All About #8 Alabama-Huntsville: Recently rated as high as No. 2 in the nation, now eight-ranked Alabama-Huntsville (23-5, third in the Gulf South Conference at 10-5 – fourth if considering ineligible Shorter) extended its current winning skein to four straight match-ups by sweeping a doubleheader against Miles (W 7-0, W 9-3) on March 25. With a .335 team batting average and a 2.09 squad ERA, UAH sits second in the GSC in each of those categories and third in overall fielding percentage at .963. The Chargers offense has swiped an incredible 115 bases in 126 attempts and currently possesses three of the top five hitters in the league by average. That trio is powered by senior outfielder Macie Couey (12 extra-base hits including seven triples, 15 steals, 15 RBIs), who currently leads the GSC at .433. Junior infielder Victoria Frith (.421 avg., team-best 31 runs scored and 26 steals, 19 RBIs) and freshman pitcher/first baseman Tyler Harrison (.403 avg., seven doubles, 22 RBIs) rate fourth and fifth in the GSC by average, respectively. UAH utilizes a true “pitching staff” as four hurlers own at least four victories and have tossed at least 39 innings from the circle. Rookie Emily Glover (6-2, 35 K’s, 57 IP) ranks fifth in the conference with a 2.58 ERA, while fellow freshmen Taylor Doriety (1.97 ERA, 21 K’s 39 IP) is dead-locked for the team lead in triumphs at 6-1 overall.

 

Some Additional Major Division II Games This Weekend:

#4 Armstrong Atlantic at #RV Georgia College (DH) LIVE STATS (BOTH GAMES) | LIVE VIDEO (BOTH GAMES) – Fri., March 21 at 2 & 4 p.m. ET

#24 Midwestern State at #12 Angelo State LIVE VIDEO (ALL FOUR GAMES) | LIVE STATS (FRI-GM-1) (FRI-GM-2) (SAT-GM-1) (SAT-GM-2) – Sat., March 22 at 11 a.m. ET

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#23 Washington (Mo.) at #12 Central (Iowa)  DIVISION III

Site: Central College Softball Field, Pella, Iowa

Date/Game Time: Sat., March 29, 2 p.m. ET

Radio/TV Coverage: LIVE VIDEO

Follow them on Twitter: @WUSTLBears, @CentralDutch

Live Stats: No. 23 Washington (Mo.) at #12 Central (Iowa) 

Game Notes/Official Sites: Washington (Mo.) Softball Official Site | Central Softball Official Site

All About #23 Washington (Mo.): The Bears went just 1-3 in their own Mizuno Invitational last weekend, but did much better than that record may suggest, since all four games were against teams ranked in the NFCA Division III Top 25. Every game was decided by one run, including a 1-0 eight-inning loss to No. 18 Illinois Wesleyan, which was receiving votes in the poll at the time, a 4-3 loss to No. 12 Coe (now ranked ninth) and a split with No. 21 Augustana (17th at the time of their two games). Senior outfielder Maggie Ingell (.471 average, .809 slugging percentage, nine doubles, four homers, 21 RBI), junior infielder Adrienne White (.436 average, three doubles, two homers), and freshman outfielders Kenzie James (.404 average, 23 RBI, 12 stolen bases) and Hannah Mehrle (.400 average, .700 slugging percentage) fuel a lineup hitting .342, while senior infielder/pitcher Kelsey Neal (.356, four homers, 22 RBI) and graduate catcher/infielder Stacy Berg (.333, seven doubles, 16 RBI) also contribute heavily. Sophomore Annie Pitkin has pitched the bulk of Washington’s innings (74), compiling a 7-5 record and a 1.42 ERA with 81 strikeouts, while Neal (4-2, 1.95 ERA in 50.1 innings) and fellow sophomores Amanda Kalupa (2-0, 1.40 ERA in 10 innings) and Brooke Hofer (1-0 in five appearances, including one start) have also seen time in the circle.

All About #12 Central: The Dutch won 12 of their 16 contests on their trip West to the Tucson Invitational Games in Arizona, including claiming their first six games of the season by a 61-0 margin. For the tournament, Central outscored its opponents 115-30, notched seven shutouts and had six games shortened by the eight-run mercy rule. The Dutch shook off a stretch of three straight losses in the middle of their trip by winning six of their final seven. Junior third baseman Whitney Sowers (.591 average, three doubles, team-best three homers and .909 slugging percentage), senior shortstop Annie Sarcone (.478 average, six doubles, team-best 22 RBI and 10 stolen bases) and junior second baseman Abbey Strajack (.446 average, 25 hits, including three doubles) head a powerful offense that is hitting .363 as a unit and boasts seven regulars averaging more than .340 at the plate. Sophomore Trisha Smith (4-0, 0.47 ERA, 48 strikeouts in 44.2 innings), junior Mallory Schulenber (4-3, 2.88 ERA, 27 strikeouts in 34 innings) and senior Brie Haycraft (4-1, 0.69 ERA in five starts) have split time in the circle to compile a combined 1.34 ERA.

 

Some Additional Major Division III Games This Weekend:

#19 Redlands at RV Claremont-Mudd-Scripps LIVE STATSLIVE VIDEO – at Claremont, Calif. – Sat., March 29 at 3 & 5 p.m. ET

Bowdoin at #1 Tufts – Fri., March 28 at 4 p.m. ET & Sat., March 29 at Noon & 2:30 p.m. ET

Richard Stockton at #3 Montclair State LIVE STATS – Sat., March 29 at 1 & 2:30 p.m. ET