Liberty softball to face Hofstra in NCAA Regional Friday
LYNCHBURG, Va. (WSET/Liberty Flames) - Big South regular-season and tournament champion Liberty (47-12) will open play in the 2018 NCAA Division I Softball Championship on Friday at 5 p.m., competing in the Columbia, S.C. Regional against Hofstra. The No. 9 national seed, South Carolina, will host the four-team regional, Friday through Sunday, at Carolina Softball Stadium at Beckham Field. In the other side of the bracket, No. 9 South Carolina will face UNCG, Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The winner of this week's Columbia Regional will face the winner of the Tempe Regional, next Friday through Sunday.
Liberty went 18-3 in Big South play during the regular season, earning its fifth conference regular-season title. The Lady Flames, serving as the No. 1 seed at the 2018 Big South Softball Championship, downed Gardner-Webb, 8-2 on Thursday, before beating host, No. 3 seed Radford, in both the semifinals (4-2) and finals (5-1) to capture the program's third Big South tournament title.
Sophomore Autumn Bishop was named Big South Tournament MVP and was joined on the All-Tournament team by sophomore Taylor Hoffman, junior Julia DiMartino and senior Alexia Taylor.
This season saw the Lady Flames place a Big South-record nine players on the all-conference team, highlighted by DiMartino, who was named Big South Pitcher of the Year for the second straight season. Fifth-year head coach Dot Richardson also repeated at Big South Coach of the Year.
The Lady Flames' current 17-games winning streak is the second longest active winning streak in NCAA Division I softball, trailing only NEC champion Saint Francis (Pa.)'s 19-game streak. Only three NCAA Division I softball teams have won more games than Liberty this season, in UCLA (50-4), Florida (50-8) and Oklahoma (50-3). Liberty, with a program single-season record 47 victories is tied with Florida State (47-10) and Oregon (47-7) for the fourth-most wins in the nation.
This will be Liberty's third appearance all-time in the NCAA Division I Softball Championship. The team made its first postseason appearance in 2002, competing in the Columbia, S.C., Regional against No. 1 UCLA and UMBC. The Lady Flames next qualified for the NCAA Knoxville Regional in 2011, falling to No. 5 Tennessee and No. 19 Georgia Tech. Liberty will be looking for its first NCAA Tournament victory in softball, going 0-4 in Regional play to date.
This is the second season in a row in which Liberty will compete in the postseason, as the Lady Flames won the inaugural Postseason National Invitational Softball Championship in 2017. Liberty hosted both the Regional and National levels of the tournament, and won five straight elimination games, including three on the final day, to claim the program's first postseason championship. 2017 NISC Tournament MVP Tori Zavodny and NISC All-Tournament Team member Amber Bishop return this season.
Liberty is one of four teams who compete in the 2017 NISC who will also play in the 2018 NCAA Division I Softball Championship, joining Atlantic Sun champion Kennesaw State, MAC champion Ohio and Mountain West champion Boise State.
The Lady Flames went 3-6 against teams who qualified for the 2018 NCAA Division I Softball Championship, including two wins over Ohio and a split doubleheader at Kennesaw State. Liberty posted an 0-5 record against Top 25 teams, falling to then No. 3/4 UCLA, No. 17/15 Arizona State, No. 20/21 South Carolina and No. 12/12 Baylor (twice).