LA JOLLA, Calif. - The No. 24 UC San Diego softball team will face No. 1 Valdosta State in its opening game of the 2012 NCAA Championship in Louisville, Ky.
NCAA Division II Women's Softball Championship
Wednesday, May 16 - 9:30 a.m.
No. 24 UC San Diego (41-21) vs. No. 1 Valdosta State (53-4)
Knights Field - Louisville, Ky.
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS LIVE
Every game of the 2012 NCAA Championship will be streamed live by CBS through NCAA.com. Just go to the interactive bracket on NCAA.com and navigate to the "live video" link under the current game in progress. Live Stats will also be available through NCAA.com.
THIS LOOKS FAMILIAR
UC San Diego is the only returning team from the 2011 NCAA Championship to make this year's final eight. UCSD went 4-0 in its first appearance at the tournament, defeating C.W. Post, Minnesota State-Mankato, Saginaw Valley State, and then-No. 1 Alabama-Huntsville in the national championship game. The West Region champion has won the national title in three of the last four seasons.
START AT THE TOP
UCSD will open the double-elimination tournament in Bracket 1 against No. 1 Valdosta State of Georgia. It will be the first-ever meeting between the two squads. VSU won the South Region with a pair of shutout victories over Florida Southern and will be making its second appearance at the NCAA Championship in the last three seasons. The Blazers have been ranked as the No. 1 team for the last six National Fastpitch Coaches Association National Polls; VSU entered the season at No. 6 and has been ranked in the top-five every week since February 22. VSU has proved victorious in 11 of its last 12 contests and 47 of its last 49. The Blazers had a 36-game win streak between February 22 and April 21.
UCSD NCAA TOURNEY RECORD
The Tritons are 17-10 all-time in the NCAA Division II Tournament after going 2-1 last weekend at the West Super Regional against No. 10 Cal State Dominguez Hills in Carson, Calif. The Tritons are 9-3 overall this postseason including a 3-1 record at the CCAA Championship, April 27-29, in Stockton. UCSD went 9-0 in the 2011 NCAA Tournament on its way to its first-ever national championship. 2011 and 2012 are the first back-to-back seasons in which UCSD has advanced to the NCAA Championship.
RUN FOR THE ‘HILLS
UCSD fell in its opening game to Cal State Dominguez Hills last Friday at Toro Diamond, 4-3, but rebounded with a pair of 1-0 victories on Saturday to take the West Region over the top-seed. The Tritons committed three errors in game one on Friday, conceding a pair of unearned runs in CSUDH's four-run third inning. One loss away from elimination, Caitlin Brown cracked a walk-off, solo home run to right field in the bottom of the eighth inning of game two to force a deciding game. UCSD scored that game's only run in the bottom of the first inning on an RBI single by Kirsten Willmon. Camille Gaito (29-10) limited the Toros to eight hits, no runs and a single walk over 15 innings on Saturday, saving her best for last in game two by surrendering just three hits in the contest - none after the third inning.
BACK AGAINST THE WALL
Patti Gerckens' squad has lost each of its opening games in each phase of the NCAA Tournament, but has responded in almost identical fashion after being one loss away from heading home. Dixie State beat UCSD 3-2 in the opening game of the West Region II tournament on May 4, but the Tritons responded with a pair of shutout victories the following day over Montana State-Billings (4-0) and Cal State Monterey Bay (5-0). After falling to CSUDH 4-3 in game one on Friday, the Tritons countered with a pair of shutout wins as well. So far this season, UCSD is 14-7 following a loss.
WHAT UP ‘MON?
Sophomore left fielder Kirsten Willmon led the charge for UCSD at the West Super Regional, going 6-for-11 (.545) with two RBI, a triple and a .727 slugging percentage. She went 3-for-4 with an RBI triple in the opening game of the series and then capped the weekend off with a 2-for-3 performance and the game-winning RBI in the all-or-nothing game. So far in the NCAA Tournament, Willmon leads the Tritons with a .500 average (13-for-26), 13 hits and .519 OBP. For the season, Willmon is tied for the team-lead with 22 steals, is second with 32 runs and is fourth with a .308 batting average.
JUST TO POINT OUT...
VSU was the runner-up to Hawaii Pacific at the 2010 NCAA Championship ... Kris Lesovsky needs two hits to set a single-season record with 79 ... Caitlin Brown has hit four home runs in the Tritons' NCAA run ... Brown is tied for fifth in school history with 10 career home runs ... Charly Swanberg was 3-for-9 at the Super Regional ... Maria Sykes had a two-run single in the opening game vs. CSUDH ... Lesovsky is hitting .423 in the NCAA Tournament and Brown is batting .417 ... Gaito is 6-2 with a 0.66 ERA and five shutouts in eight starts during the NCAA's ... UCSD, currently ranked No. 24, has been in the NFCA top-25 in 10-of-12 weeks this season.
There are now more ways than ever to follow the Tritons. Of course, you've always got ucsdtritons.com at your fingertips, but our social media scene is growing by the hour. Get instant updates on Twitter at twitter.com/ucsdtritons and like us on Facebook at facebook.com/ucsdtritons. For a more visual approach, watch us on YouTube at youtube.com/ucsdathletics. UCSD head coach Patti Gerckens is now also on Twitter. Follow the 2011 NFCA Coach of the Year all season long for an in-depth look at her perspective on the team. Just click @PGerckensUCSDsb.