For the first time since 2008, and for just the second time in program history, the UMHB softball team is NCAA Tournament bound, having secured an at-large bid when the tournament field was announced on Monday. And better yet, the Crusaders will get to open their tournament run on their home field, hosting a four-team regional this weekend.
UMHB, who finished as the runners-up in the ASC Tournament on Saturday, will host SCAC Tournament champ St. Thomas (TX), SAA champion Berry, and Rosemont College, out of the CSAC. The regional will be played with a double-elimination format. UMHB’s first opponent of the tournament will be St. Thomas at 2 p.m. on May 18.
Following Thursday’s action, which also sees Rosemont face Berry at 4:30 p.m., three games are scheduled for Friday, beginning at 12 p.m., followed by a 12 p.m. contest on Saturday. If necessary, a 2:30 p.m. game will also be played Saturday. The double-elimination set up of the regional means that teams must have two losses before being eliminated. Friday’s matchups will be determined by the results of Thursday’s games. Saturday’s winner will advance to the second weekend of the tournament.
Ticket prices are as follows per the release from the UMHB Athletics Department: “Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for seniors, students, veterans and children under 12. Children two and under are free.”
The news of the hosting came as a slight surprise, especially considering ASC tournament champion ETBU is also hosting a four-team regional of its own in Marshall, and having multiple regionals within the state of Texas in one tournament is uncommon. This marks the first time in program history that UMHB will host an NCAA Softball Tournament regional.
It will not be completely unfamiliar territory, as far as the opponents go, for UMHB, as the Cru opened the 2023 campaign by splitting a doubleheader against St. Thomas on Feb. 18, winning the first game of the day, 1-0, in eight innings, as Sierra Grant’s sacrifice fly provided the walk-off win. St. Thomas finished the year with a 32-8 record, and rides a six-game winning streak heading into the NCAA Tournament.
Referencing UMHB’s record book, the Cru has never faced Rosemont or Berry in the D-III era. This season, Rosemont went 21-17 and was the Colonial States Athletic Conference automatic qualifier. Berry, who went 36-4, and won the Southern Athletic Association for the second year in a row, has one of the better pitching staffs in the country, with a 1.24 ERA and 17 shutouts this season.
UMHB went 32-12 overall this season, claiming the ASC regular season title. The second straight 32-win regular season yielded victories over fellow NCAA Tournament qualifiers, ETBU and Eastern Connecticut State.
18 Pool C (or at-large) bids were up for grabs, and UMHB was one of two Region 10 teams to be selected as an at-large qualifier, with Texas Lutheran being the other. A total of six Region 10 teams were selected to the field, as Linfield, Redlands, ETBU, and St. Thomas qualified after winning their respective conference tournaments.
UMHB went 3-2 in the program’s lone previous NCAA Tournament appearance in 2008.
Ticket and game information, including game times/dates, will be announced shortly. This article will be updated when that information becomes available.