DEFIANCE, Ohio – Defiance College will be making its fourth NCAA Regional Tournament in the last six years, after cruising to its second-straight HCAC Tournament title last week. The Jackets will look for their second-straight NCAA Regional Final Four berth when action kicks off on Thursday.
DC will enter the tournament as the fifth seed in the DePauw Regional, where they will face a familiar opponent, Trine University. The Jackets split its regular season doubleheader with the Thunder at Sal Hench Field, winning the opener 4-3 before dropping a 7-5 heartbreaker in game two.
Trine, who enters the tourney with a 29-10 mark, earned an at-large bid, after falling in the semifinals of the MIAA Tournament to NCAA Regional Tournament participant, Adrian.
For the second consecutive season, the Jackets appear to be peaking at the right time, as they enter the tournament on a season-high seven game winning streak. "I think we will be very competitive," said head coach Jodie Holava. "We have a chance to make a long run in the tournament if we continue to play at the level we did this weekend."
Defiance's pitching staff played a big role in last season's NCAA Regional Final Four berth and will once again be counted on for another deep run into the tournament. The rotation will supported by one of the region's top defenses, as the Jacket defense failed to commit an error in the HCAC Tournament for the second year in a row and will enter the Regional Tournament with an impressive .968 fielding percentage.
DC ace Justine Johnston will look to repeat the success she had in last season's NCAA Regional Tournament, where she compiled a 2-2 mark with a 0.97 ERA on her way to NCAA All-Regional Tournament honors. The senior hurler is 17-9 on the season with a 2.24 ERA, while going 3-0 in the HCAC Tournament to garner HCAC All-Tournament accolades. Johnston will get help from sophomore Kelly Schnipke, who picked up two of her DC single-season record three saves last weekend.
The DC offense played a big part in the Jackets' unblemished run through the HCAC Tournament, racking up 23 runs to help Defiance outscore its opponents by 15 runs over its three games. The team hit .356 in the tournament, led by seniors Stephanie Lieto and Kayla Crager, who each hit over .400 and combined for three home runs and five RBI in those contests.
Fellow seniors Amanda Auzins and Melanie Bushman have been two of the Jackets' most consistent hitters this season, as each is hitting over .300 on the year. Bushman, a two-time HCAC Hitter-of-the-Week honoree, tops the team with a .352 batting average and 37 runs driven in. Amanda Auzins is hitting an impressive .338 with five doubles, one long ball and 13 RBI since taking over the leadoff spot in early April.
Defiance will open up NCAA Regional Tournament play on Thursday, May 7, against Trine University. The first pitch is scheduled for 10:00 a.m.