Ladies Softball Gears Up to Defend its Mid-Con Tourney Title
Thursday, May 12, 2005



— The Centenary Ladies are set to defend their 2004 Mid-Continent Conference Tournament title as the team qualified for the championship for the second time in as many years in the league. The Ladies will serve as the #3 seed and will begin play on Friday at 12:30 pm against #2 seed Western Illinois.

 

Southern Utah closed out the 2005 conference slate by sweeping four games from second place Western Illinois, giving the Thunderbirds their third consecutive regular-season title and the top seed in the 2005 Mid-Continent Conference Softball Championship.

 

The double-elimination tournament, which is hosted by UMKC, will be contested at Adair Park in Independence, Mo., on Friday, May 13 and Saturday, May 14. Western Illinois earns the second seed in the tourney, while Centenary and IUPUI round out the field as the third and fourth seeds, respectively.

 

Southern Utah will meet No. 4 seed IUPUI in the first game of the tournament, which is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. on Friday, May 13. Second-seeded Western Illinois and No. 3 seed Centenary will square-off at 12:30 p.m. The championship round will be played on Saturday, May 14. The winner of the 2005 Mid-Con Softball Championship receives the conference’s automatic bid to the 2005 NCAA Softball Tournament.

 

Head Coach Jodi Hermanek stepped in to lead Southern Utah (38-16, 19-5 Mid-Con) to its third consecutive regular-season crown in her first season at the helm and will now look to guide the T-Birds to their first ever Mid-Con Championship. SUU has hit a league-leading 47 home runs this season, led by Kristen Carmicheal (8 HR), Tiffany Burt (11 HR) and Jentry Jo Johnson (5 HR). Carmichael is ranked nationally in batting average (.398) and leads the conference in slugging percentage (.676), on-base percentage (.464) and RBI (37). Burt is tied for the league lead in home runs with 11 blasts, while Johnson has driven in 27 runs to go along with her .328 batting average. Amy Sauer leads SUU on the mound, entering the tourney with a 14-4 record and 3.12 ERA. She was 9-2 with a 2.85 earned run average in April.

 

Defending tournament champion Centenary (28-26, 11-9 Mid-Con) will look to go two-for-two in tourney championships in the Ladies’ second season of Mid-Con play. Micah Rhodes, the 2004 Mid-Con Newcomer of the Year, and Janis Kelley will lead the Ladies offense. Rhodes hit at .318 clip this season and leads the Ladies in home runs (6). She also ranks among the Top 3 in the conference in RBI (31) and doubles (13). Kelley hit .280 with 28 RBI and five home runs this season. Right-handed pitcher Jessica Ivins burst onto the scene for Mark Montgomery’s club, as the freshman enters the postseason leading the conference in victories (17) and strikeouts (192), while also ranking third in ERA (2.85).

 

Western Illinois (23-27, 14-10 Mid-Con) is the only school in Mid-Con history to appear in every Mid-Con Softball Championship and the Westerwinds will be looking to win head coach Kathy Veroni’s fourth tourney title in her 34th and final season in the dugout. A pair of seniors, Jess Stanforth and Karenmarie Pena, will lead the way for the Westerwinds. Stanforth is tied for the league lead in home runs (11) and ranks in the Top 3 in the Mid-Con in batting average (.355), slugging percentage (.658), on-base percentage (.445), RBI (30), hits (54) and runs (32). Pena has been a workhorse on the mound, piling up 16 victories in 39 appearances this season, while striking 147 batters and holding opponents to a .258 batting average.

 

IUPUI (20-23, 10-10 Mid-Con) reaches the Mid-Con tourney for just the second time and first since 1999. The Jags boast the top pitching tandem in the conference in Devan Craig and Angelica Espinosa, who have combined to win 20 games. Craig (1.92 ERA) and Espinosa (2.85 ERA) rank first and second in the conference in ERA, respectively, while Craig has held opponents to a league-low .255 batting average. Offensively, the Jags have hit only eight home runs, but are ranked nationally in stolen bases per game. IUPUI will depend on Stacey Speshyock (.364, 25 RBI), Sarah Needy (.289, 22 SB) and Whitnie Darvell (.284, 21 SB) to produce runs.