By Chad Waller, Director of Athletics Communications and Media
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – (Schedule) (Bracket Reveal Video) The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) has officially announced the 40-team field and pairings for the 2018 NAIA Softball National Championship Opening Round. The sixth annual event will take place from May 14 – 16 at nine different locations. The format is a double-elimination, four-team tournament. For more information on the host sites, click here.
The 40-team field is comprised of 30 automatic qualifiers and 10 at-large berths. The 19 conferences receive one berth per six teams and two berths per ten teams. At-large teams were determined using the final regular-season Coaches’ Top 25 Poll released earlier today, which can be accessed here.
The champions from each of the 10 opening round tournaments advance to the 38th annual NAIA Softball World Series in Clermont, Fla., from May 25 – 31. These programs will participate in a double-elimination national championship at the Legends Way Ball Fields. Last year, Oklahoma City won its NAIA-record 10th championship – and second in-a-row – after a 4-1 victory over Corban (Ore.) on June 1.
The World Series bracket will be announced late in the day on May 16 on NAIA.org. Advanced World Series tickets may be purchased by clicking here.
Opening Round Notes
Indiana Wesleyan leads all qualifiers with the most season wins at 54-9. Science & Arts (Okla.) (50) and Vanguard (Calif.) (50) are the other teams with 50-plus wins.
Overall, there are 23 repeat qualifiers from the 2017 NAIA National Championship Opening Round.
Eleven teams are making their first-ever trip to the NAIA Softball National Championship Opening Round: Baker (Kan.), Faulkner (Ala.), Hope International (Calif.), Midland (Neb.), Midway (Ky.), Northwestern (Iowa), University of Northwestern Ohio, Tabor (Kan.), Talladega (Ala.), Thomas (Ga.) and Truett-McConnell (Ga.).
The Cascade Collegiate Conference boasts the most members in the opening round with four: Corban (Ore.), Eastern Oregon, Oregon Tech and Southern Oregon. The Heart of America Athletic Conference and Southern States Athletic Conference are next with three programs apiece.
Oklahoma City has claimed four opening round titles, which is tied with former member Auburn Montgomery (Ala.) for the most of any program.
With 15 victories, Oklahoma City leads a pack of five programs with 10-or-more Opening Round wins. The others are Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) (11), Oregon Tech (10), Saint Xavier (Ill.) (10) and William Carey (Miss.) (10).
The 2018 opening round marks the sixth year of this format. Overall, there are two teams that have owned the distinction of participating in all opening rounds since the event began in 2013: Lindsey Wilson and Oklahoma City. Both clubs also are the only in NAIA history to host all six events.
Since the Opening Round format began in 2013, the top seed has been the Opening Round champion in 31-of-50 events. There have been three No. 4 seeds to win the event in the five-year history: Webber International (Fla.) won the 2016 Reinhardt Bracket (Ga.) with a record of 3-0; Ottawa (Kan.) won the 2017 Morningside Bracket (Iowa) with a 2-0 record and Indiana Wesleyan won the 2017 Bowling Green Bracket (Ky.) with a 3-0 record.
For more information on the 2018 NAIA Softball National Championship and World Series, click here.
2018 Softball National Championship Opening Round Qualifiers
School Name Qualification Record^ OR Appearances* Consecutive* OR Record Titles
Baker (Kan.) At-Large No. 10 40-14 1st 1st 0-0 0
Brenau (Ga.) Appalachian Athletic Tournament Runner-Up 28-20 3rd 3rd 2-3 0
Campbellsville (Ky.) Mid-South Tournament Champion 45-8 4th 4th 6-5 1
Central Methodist (Mo.) Heart of America Athletic Tournament Runner-Up 41-10 5th 1st 8-6 1
Columbia (Mo.) American Midwest Tournament Champion 30-14 4th 2nd 4-4 1
Corban (Ore.) At-Large No. 6 35-13 4th 2nd 7-4 1
Dickinson State (N.D.) North Star Athletic Tournament Champion 30-19 5th 1st 4-7 1
Eastern Oregon Cascade Collegiate Tournament Runner-Up 26-22 2nd 1st 0-2 0
Faulkner (Ala.) At-Large No. 7 44-13 1st 1st 0-0 0
Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) American Midwest Regular-Season Champion 31-13 3rd 2nd 1-4 0
Georgia Gwinnett Association of Independent Institutions Tournament Champion 49-3 4th 4th 6-6 0
Grand View (Iowa) Heart of America Athletic Regular-Season No. 1 Seed and Tournament Champion 46-8 5th 4th 1-8 0
Hope International (Calif.) Golden State Athletic Tournament Champion 46-9 1st 1st 0-0 0
Houston-Victoria (Texas) Red River Athletic Tournament Champion 30-16 4th 1st 5-6 0
Indiana Wesleyan Crossroads Tournament Champion 54-9 4th 4th 5-4 1
Jamestown (N.D.) At-Large No. 4 43-8 2nd 2nd 0-2 0
Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) At-Large No. 5 39-14 6th 6th 11-6 2
Madonna (Mich.) Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Regular-Season Champion 27-15 3rd 2nd 5-4 0
Marian (Ind.) Crossroads Regular-Season Champion 47-5 5th 4th 8-5 2
Midland (Neb.) Great Plains Athletic Regular-Season Champion 34-15 1st 1st 0-0 0
Midway (Ky.) River States Tournament Runner-Up 23-20 1st 1st 0-0 0
Mobile (Ala.) At-Large No. 2 43-13 3rd 2nd 6-3 1
Northwestern (Iowa) Great Plains Athletic Tournament Champion 35-11 1st 1st 0-0 0
Northwestern Ohio, University of Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Tournament Champion 30-12 1st 1st 0-0 0
Oklahoma City Sooner Athletic Tournament Champion 48-7 6th 6th 15-3 4
Oklahoma Wesleyan Kansas Collegiate Athletic Regular-Season No. 2 Seed 29-19 2nd 1st 0-2 0
Oregon Tech At-Large No. 8 36-13 5th 5th 10-5 1
Rio Grande (Ohio) River States Regular-Season and Tournament Champion 35-11 4th 4th 4-6 0
Saint Xavier (Ill.) Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Tournament Runner-Up 27-15 5th 1st 10-6 2
Science & Arts (Okla.) At-Large No. 1 50-5 3rd 2nd 3-4 0
Simpson (Calif.) Cal Pacific Tournament Champion 34-20 4th 3rd 9-4 2
Southeastern (Fla.) At-Large No. 9 40-16 4th 4th 6-4 1
Southern Oregon Cascade Collegiate Regular-Season and Tournament Champion 44-12 3rd 3rd 5-3 1
St. Francis (Ill.) Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Regular-Season and Tournament Champion 38-7 3rd 2nd 4-4 0
Tabor (Kan.) Kansas Collegiate Athletic Regular-Season and Tournament Champion 29-19 1st 1st 0-0 0
Talladega (Ala.) Association of Independent Institutions Tournament Runner-Up 18-20 1st 1st 0-0 0
Thomas (Ga.) The Sun Tournament Champion 38-14 1st 1st 0-0 0
Truett-McConnell (Ga.) Appalachian Athletic Regular-Season and Tournament Champion 40-15 1st 1st 0-0 0
Vanguard (Calif.) At-Large No. 3 50-10 2nd 2nd 0-2 0
William Carey (Miss.) Southern States Athletic Tournament Champion 37-14 5th 5th 10-4 2
^ as submitted by school in DakStats
* Opening Round appearances, including 2018 event