By Anvil Welch
Globe Sports Writer
Crowder College is the No. 1 seeded softball team in the NJCAA Division I Region XVI Tournament that opens today on its field south of Neosho.
Crowder, which was 16-4 against Region XVI foes during the regular season, clipped Three Rivers (15-5) of Poplar Bluff.
Crowder and Three Rivers have byes in the six-team, double-elimination tourney that runs through Sunday.
Fourth-seeded St. Charles (10-10) and Maple Woods of Kansas City (5-15) clash at 9 a.m. in the first game. No. 3 Jefferson of Hillsboro (12-8) and North Central of Trenton (2-18) tangle at 11.
Crowder is scheduled to face the winner of St. Charles and Maple Woods at 1 p.m. on Friday. Three Rivers tackles Jefferson or North Central at 3.
The first losers’ bracket game will be held at 5 p.m. and the second will open Saturday’s schedule at 9 a.m. The winners’ bracket final is set for 11 a.m. on Saturday.
Crowder, 39-16 overall under Lori Videmschek, posted a 3-1 advantage against St. Charles during the regular season. The ’Lady Riders beat Maple Woods in four of five meetings.
Said Videmschek: “St. Charles and Maple Woods are scrappy teams. Make a mistake and they will make you pay for it.
“We have to play well,” Videmschek said. “You can’t give teams four or five outs an inning. We have to make the routine plays. We can’t walk batters, either.
“The key for us right now is to hit the ball,” Videmschek said. “We have to manufacture runs when needed.
“The girls are ready,” Videmschek said. “We have to go out and perform. We do have a lot of freshmen on the team. There will be times when they will need to step up in key situations.”
Videmschek said that sophomore right-hander Haily Harvey is the probable starting pitcher in today’s 1 p.m. contest.
Videmschek said that Jessica Wirzberg, another veteran right-hander, is Crowder’s No. 2 hurler.
Videmschek listed a likely batting order of center fielder Jessica Neely, left fielder Shelby Stuck, third baseman Carson Forge, first baseman Brooke Hulsey, second baseman Morgan Coleman, catcher Navada Campos, right fielder Kala Crisp, designated hitter Kirstie Ickes and shortstop Sarah Sagely.
Harvey is 23-8 with six saves and a 2.39 earned run average. She’s struck out 120 and walked 64 in 196 innings. Wirzberg is 11-7 with a 3.82 ERA.
Batting averages include .391 for Forge, .390 for Neely, .345 for Coleman, .343 for Hulsey and .336 for Campos.
Forge leads Neely 54-46 in RBI with Neely leading Forge 56-55 in runs scored. Neely has a whopping 47 stolen bases.
The leaders in extra-base hits are Hulsey with 34 and Neely with 26. Hulsey has rapped 26 doubles and Forge leads Hulsey 7-6 in home runs. Stuck and Neely each have seven triples.
The Region XVI champion will entertain the Iowa champion in a best-of-3 series starting next Friday.