Brenau Softball Punches Ticket to National Championship Qualifiers
The Brenau University Golden Tigers softball team made the final cut of qualifying squads for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics national championships opening round. The team joins Brenau’s swimming, tennis, outdoor track & field and competition cheer teams as athletics programs selected for national championship berths this season.
Ranked No. 4 in the Southern States Athletic Conference, the Golden Tigers open play in the double-elimination tournament with a four-team match-up May 16-18 in Lawrenceville, Georgia. Brenau (29-22) faces Georgia Gwinnett College (41-17) Monday, May 16, in the first game.
The two teams split their regular season meetings – Georgia Gwinnett taking the first game 1-0 on Feb. 20 and the Tigers pulling off an eight-inning 8-7 win the next day. The other two teams competing in Brenau’s opening round “pod” are Saint Xavier University (40-7-1) of Illinois and Milligan College (28-18) of Tennessee.
The Golden Tigers finished the regular season with a 12-9 SSAC Conference record. It is the third time Brenau has competed in the tournament and the university’s first appearance since 2012.
The team is anchored by First-Team All-Conference sluggers Kelsey Payne, a sophomore infielder and outfielder from Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Elizabeth Schneider, a senior infielder and catcher from Smyrna, Georgia. Payne ranked second in the league in hits and fourth in batting average over the regular season and Schneider ranked 13th in hits and 15th in RBIs.
Adding to the Golden Tigers firepower are Second-Team All-Conference players Jessica Rathje, a freshman pitcher from Glencoe, Alabama, and Mason Garland, a sophomore infielder from Hoschton, Georgia.
“The team is a little bit younger in terms of player personnel,” said Brenau Athletics Director Mike Lochstampfor. “The players have a lot of determination, fight and heart. We match up well with Georgia Gwinnett, and given the proximity to our campus, it almost feels like a home game.”
The NAIA selects 40 teams for the tournament, divided into 10 pods playing around the country May 16-18. Winners advance to the 36th annual NAIA Softball World Series, scheduled May 27-June 2 in Sioux City, Iowa.
This spring, four Brenau programs – swimming (ranked as high as No. 2 nationally), cheer (No. 10), softball (peaking at No. 23) and tennis (ranked No. 5 nationally and seeded fifth in the NAIA national tournament scheduled May 17-21 in Mobile, Alabama) – were ranked in national coaches polls. Brenau’s cross-country team also sent one player, Bowling Green, Kentucky senior Jasmine Ray, to last fall’s national meet in Charlotte, North Carolina.
After winning its fourth consecutive SSAC championship, Brenau’s outdoor track & field team will send several of its representatives to the 36th annual Women’s Outdoor Track & Field National Championships May 26-28 in Gulf Shores, Alabama.