Only 64 teams remain in NCAA Div. II softball, and Truman will look to outlast three of them this Friday through Sunday during the opening rounds of the Midwest regional, hosted by Missouri-St. Louis.
The No. 4 seeded Bulldogs enter the tournament for the first time since 2005 with a 41-11 overall record on the season, having most recently advanced to day two of the Great Lakes Valley Conference tournament last weekend in East Peoria, Ill.
Truman will begin postseason play at 12 p.m. on Friday afternoon at the UMSL Softball Complex against No. 5 seed Ohio Dominican (29-27), runners-up of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
Joined by host and top-seeded UMSL along with No. 8 seed Bellarmine, Truman is slated for just one game on Friday, with potentially two games on Saturday before championship Sunday.
The advancing team from this weekend's double elimination tournament will face the winner of the Midwest region's other four-team bracket â?? hosted by No. 2 seed Wayne (Mich.) State â?? next weekend in a best-of-3 super-regional.
WSU is joined in Detroit by No. 3 seed Indianapolis, No. 6 seed Grand Valley (Mich.) State, and No. 7 seed Ashland (Ohio).
This year's Bulldog squad has reached the national tournament for the 15th time in program history but for just the first time since a seven-year run from 1999-2005.
The team's 41 victories mark the fifth-highest total since the program started in 1973, with the 30 regular season conference wins setting a new program standard.
The Bulldogs have been well-rounded in all facets this season, leading the GLVC in two of the three major categories â?? hitting (.333 average), and fielding (.971 efficiency) â?? while also ranking third in pitching (1.42 ERA).
Truman has seven regular starters all hitting better than .320 on the season, while the sophomore tandem of Kindra Henze and Kelsea Dorsey have struck out 311 hitters in 343 innings of work.
The duo has combined to throw all but 1.2 of the team's defensive innings this year, leading to 45 complete games and 18 shutouts.
Freshman Alexis VanNostrand jumped to the top of the team's batting average chart at .397 after going 7-for-10 at last weekend's GLVC tournament.
She is followed closely by junior Cate Simon (.395), junior Andrea Klipsch (.386), and senior Kelsey Bollman (.380), with Simon adding three home runs last weekend to increase her team-high total to 12.
The Simon-Klipsch-Bollman trio has combined for 38 doubles, 24 home runs, and 119 RBI this season â?? all going alongside 56 walks to just 43 strikeouts.
Senior Danielle Lewellen, the squad's leadoff hitter, is hitting .343 on the season and has a GLVC-best 39 stolen bases, while junior Liz Leath's second grand slam of the season last weekend helped raise her season home run total to six and batting average to .341.
The Bulldogs are under the direction of eighth-year head coach Erin Brown, who rejoined her alma mater in August of 2006 after serving as the head coach at Westminster (Mo.) College.
She was a three-time letterwinner at Truman and played on three NCAA regional finalist teams.
Courtesy Truman State University