If they go out and play “their game,” Northeastern A&M softball coach Eric Iverson thinks his Lady Norse will do fine in the Region II tournament which begins today in Oklahoma City.
“We'll be OK if we just go out and play our game,” Iverson said. “We aren't going to rubberneck at other fields and look at who's matching up next. We are going to go out and do things the NEO way, play our game.”
The ninth-ranked Lady Norse (45-5) open play at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium with a noon clash with No. 8 seed Rose State.
Another noon game pits No. 4 Carl Albert against No. 5 Eastern State.
The other two first-round games are No. 2 Seminole vs. No. 7 Western and No. 3 Northern-Tonkawa vs. No. 6 Connors State at 2 p.m.
Play continues through Sunday.
The winner advances to the national tournament later this month.
The Lady Norse went 24-2 against Region II competition, the only blemishes coming against Connors State (5-4) on March 3 and Northern-Tonkawa last Friday.
NEO ran off 30 straight wins before a 4-1 loss to the Lady Mavs in the second game of their double-header.
“Nobody has ever gone unbeaten in our region,” Iverson said. “It's probably never going to happen. You are going to stub your toe a couple times. We were fortunate that we only stubbed it twice.”
Maria Bernal leads the Lady Norse offensively with a .465 batting average. She's driven in 33 runs.
Bernal is one of six NEO players who are batting over .400.
She is joined by Miami freshman Becca Carden (.439), Shae Peterson (.428), Leslie Hobbs (.422), Candace Handley (.420), Shareena Pulse (.419) and Erin Eddy (.412),
“We know we are good offensively,” Iverson said. “We don't have many weaknesses in our game, so somebody is going to have to play an awfully good game to beat us. It's possible. We respect the others.”
On the mound, Handley has posted a 23-2 record with a 1.064 ERA for the Lady Norse. She has struck out 133 with only 32 walks in 144 2/3 innings.
Weather could be a factor in the tournament.
The Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association was forced to push its slow-pitch state tournaments back to Monday. Games were originally scheduled to start Wednesday at Norman and at the Hall of Fame stadium complex, but were pushed back to Thursday, then bumped to Monday in deference to the state track meets.
“Its things we can't control, but we're playing at the best softball complex in the country,” Iverson said. “If there's a place you can get a game in after a heavy rain, its Hall of Fame Stadium. We should be okay to go at noon.
“The field is tarped and they have the resources and staff to get it ready.”