Rio softball draws Olivet Nazarene in NAIA opener

By Randy Payton - For Ohio Valley Publishing

RIO GRANDE, Ohio — The University of Rio Grande will begin its quest for a national championship as part of the Davenport Bracket in the 2017 NAIA Softball National Championship Opening Round.

The pairings for the 10, four-team regional sites were announced Wednesday night by the NAIA national office.

The second-seeded RedStorm (45-8) will face No. 3 seed Olivet Nazarene (IL) University (31-12) at Noon EDT, while No. 1 seed and bracket host Davenport University (43-7) meets fourth-seeded Hastings (NE) College (36-22) in the 3 p.m. EDT wrapup of the tourney’s opening day on Monday, May 15, at the Farmer’s Insurance Athletic Complex in Grand Rapids, Mich.

The winner’s bracket final and a pair of elimination games are slated for Tuesday, May 16, while the championship first final – and a second final, if necessary – will take place on Wednesday, May 17.

Among the four teams in the Davenport Bracket, two were ranked in the latest NAIA coaches’ Top 25 – the host Panthers are eighth and Rio Grande is No. 17 – the highest ranking in program history.

Rio Grande earned its third straight trip to the national tournament by virtue of winning both the River States Conference regular season and tournament championships. The RedStorm defeated Indiana University-Southeast for the RSC tournament title last Saturday in Vienna, W.Va.

The RedStorm, whose 45 wins thus far have established a new single-season school record, is one of only two RSC programs – IU Southeast, as the tourney runner-up, is the other – in the tournament field, which includes 31 automatic qualifiers and nine at-large selections.

Last year, Rio Grande dropped a pair of decisions to Central Methodist (Mo.) University and posted a win over Lourdes (OH) University at the Auburn-Montgomery Bracket in Montgomery, Ala.

The 10 opening round site winners will advance to the 37th Annual NAIA World Series, which is slated for May 26-June 1, at the Legends Way Ball Fields in Clermont, Fla.

Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.

By Randy Payton

For Ohio Valley Publishing