BEAUMONT, Texas (LAMAR ATHLETICS) – The Lamar University Cardinals will have home-field advantage for their first-ever appearance in a national postseason tournament, as they have been selected to host one of the six regionals in the inaugural National Invitational Softball Championship.
The LU Softball Complex will be the site of a four-team, double-elimination regional, with the winner advancing to the championship round at a to-be-determined site. Coming to Beaumont for the event that gets underway on Tuesday are UT Arlington, Louisiana-Monroe and fellow Southland Conference member Abilene Christian.
The Cardinals will face Louisiana-Monroe (30-28) in one first-round game at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Abilene Christian (32-20) will face UT Arlington (32-26) at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
The losers of Tuesday’s first-round games will meet in an elimination game at noon Wednesday. Tuesday’s winners will square off at 3 p.m. Wednesday, with the winner advancing to the championship round at noon Thursday. The winner of Wednesday morning’s game will face the loser of Wednesday afternoon’s game at 7 p.m. Wednesday. A second game in the championship round, if necessary, is slated for 3 p.m. Thursday.
“We’re excited to be selected as one of the hosts for the tournament,” LU coach Holly Bruder said. “We’re very proud of our facility, and I think the teams coming here will be very impressed.”
The Cardinals (28-28 overall, 17-7 Southland Conference) were the third seeded in the recently concluded Southland Conference Tournament. The Cardinals have qualified for the conference tourney in four of the five seasons since LU revived the softball program in 2013.
The Cardinals had a school-record seven All-Southland Conference selections this season, led by senior catcher Brynn Baca and junior center fielder Brittany Rodriguez. Baca, who has caught 55 of LU’s 56 games this season, batted .306 with one home run and team-leading 30 RBIs. Rodriguez leads the team with a .389 batting average, a .509 slugging percentage, a .457 on-base percentage, 13 stolen bases and nine outfield assists.
The tournament means that Baca, along with senior right-handed pitcher Ciara Luna and senior left fielder Ashley McDowell, will be able to extend their careers a little bit longer.
Luna, a second-team All-Southland Conference selection is 13-16 with a 2.40 ERA. Luna is LU’s all-time leader in strikeouts with 243. Her 131 strikeouts this season are 14 shy of the LU mark of 145 set by Shannon Millman in 2013. McDowell, a third-team all-conference pick, is LU’s all-time leader in hits (196), home runs (21), RBIs (107), doubles (41), total bases (314) and stolen bases (37).
“This will be a great experience for our players to compete in a tournament on the national level,” Bruder said. “It’s a great way for our seniors to end their career, and this will be invaluable for our returning players.”