Nationally ranked matchups with George Fox University (Ore.) and Messiah (Pa.) and Babson (Mass.) colleges start UW-Oshkosh's six-game softball schedule at this weekend's National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Division III Leadoff Classic in Tucson, Ariz.
UW-Oshkosh (4-0 record in 2018), ranked 20th in the country by the NFCA, will play 22nd-ranked George Fox University (7-1) at 11 a.m. (CST) and 18th-ranked Messiah College (4-0) at 1:30 p.m. (CST) on Friday (March 2).
The Titans will then play 24th-ranked Babson College (0-0) at 4 p.m. (CST) and DePauw University (Ind.) (2-0) at 6:30 p.m. (CST) on Saturday (March 3), and Wittenberg University (Ohio) (0-0) (3 p.m.) and University of St. Thomas (Minn.) (0-0) at 5:30 p.m. (CST) on Sunday (March 4).
A total of 32 teams will compete in this year's NFCA Division III Leadoff Classic at the Lincoln Sports Complex.
Defending NCAA national champion Virginia Wesleyan University and 2017 national runner-up St. John Fisher College (N.Y.) head the field, which includes 31 teams that played in their conference tournament last season. Of those squads, 21 qualified for the NCAA postseason, nine reached the NCAA Super Regionals and five advanced to the eight-team NCAA Championship in Oklahoma City, Okla.
All 32 teams will play a predetermined six-game schedule over the three days, with a tournament champion and runner-up determined by overall performance. Meanwhile, an all-tournament team will recognize one player from each of the 32 participating squads at the conclusion of the event.
UW-Oshkosh (33-13 record in 2017) will play three league champions and four programs that appeared in last year's NCAA postseason. Messiah College (35-10), University of St. Thomas (37-11) and Wittenberg University (29-7) all won conference titles a year ago while Babson College (33-16), DePauw University (23-21), Messiah College and University of St. Thomas each advanced to the Division III tournament.
George Fox University compiled a 20-17 record in 2017.
Last season UW-Oshkosh won a regional championship for the first time since 1988.
The Titans' most successful season in nearly three decades concluded with the program's first appearance in the super regional round. UW-Oshkosh, which finished third in the WIAC standings with a 9-5 record, won all three of its games at the La Crosse Regional before suffering a pair of setbacks by three total runs to Trine University (Ind.) at the Angola (Ind.) Super Regional.
UW-Oshkosh has won all four of its games this season by a combined 35-3 score. Only one of those contests went longer than six innings, a 6-1 Titan victory over Lakeland University on Feb. 25 in Marquette, Mich.
UW-Oshkosh, which is playing its first games in Arizona, is hitting .453 as a team and has yet to commit an error in 98 fielding opportunities. Titan pitchers have combined for 20 strikeouts and a 0.91 earned run average in 23 innings.
Sophomore second baseman Amanda McIlhany has hit a team-best .600 (6-10) with one double, one triple, five runs scored and four runs batted in this season while junior catcher Abby Menting has compiled a .583 batting average (7-12) with three doubles, one triple and four runs batted in.
In the pitcher's circle, sophomore Claire Petrus has earned a 2-0 record and a 0.70 earned run average in 10 innings. Junior Bailey Smaney has registered a 2-0 record and a 1.17 earned run average in 12 innings.