Drover Softball Chalks Up Another Historic Season
The University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma’s softball team is in the midst of another dominating seasonal performance. In the final NAIA Softball Coaches’ Top 25 Poll of the season, the Drovers were locked in as the No. 10 choice, making another season in which the team never dropped out of the Top-10 national rankings.
Since winning the 2018 NAIA Softball World Series, the Drovers have solidified their reputation at the national level. Head coach Jadyn Wallis has led her team to five consecutive appearances in the national tournament. The team has also earned three straight hosting honors. Bill Smith Ballpark will once again be a host site for the NAIA Softball National Championship Opening Round Tournament May 15-17.
The announcement came last week as the Drovers closed the regular-season portion of their schedule. With a 36-13 overall record, the Drovers finished second in conference play. The season was strung together with multiple win-streaks, no-hitters and numerous weekly awards. Jaclyn Gray earned three Player-of-the-Week awards alongside Jayden Goucher’s single award. Most notable of the season, the Drovers owned the pitching awards with Abi Gregory and Sophie Williams combining for four straight Pitcher-of-the-Week awards to round out their six total on the season. The Drover softball team has been known as a Pitching Powerhouse since the rise of Emily Cerny during the 2018 World Series push.
This success was just part of the selection of USAO as an Opening Round host site. Selections are made in part by the NAIA Softball National Championship Selection Committee, a group comprised of head coaches and administrators from around the nation. There are many factors in the decision, one being facilities and location. The Bill Smith Ballpark was recently renovated with the additions of hitting facilities, locker rooms and hospitality suites. The Nance Weir Softball Hitting Center allowed for many upgrades to the field making USAO a prime hosting site. In addition, our Drover Athletics staff produces a top-tier livestream allowing for a great experience for those rooting for other teams in our bracket.
“After the success of this event last year, record breaking attendance, record viewership on our livestream, and the support from the City of Chickasha and the Chamber of Commerce I knew we had a great chance to get to host again,” said Mike Ross, USAO Athletic Director.
The announcement allowed the Drovers to begin postseason with even more momentum and motivation. As the No. 2 seed in the SAC Tournament, the team hosted Central Christian and MACU for two wins to advance to their fifth-straight tournament championship appearance.
The excitement came with a slight edge as they faced rival Oklahoma City University for the fifth time of the season. The teams were even, both with two wins against each other during conference play. As the No. 1 seed, the Stars gained the home field advantage and put it to good use taking the first lead of the game at 1-0 in the first inning. Despite the early edge, the Drovers would even the score and more with four unanswered runs to clinch their third SAC Tournament Championship.
Following the championship crowning, the Drovers raked in more titles as the SAC yearly awards were announced. Senior catcher Jaclyn Gray was awarded the SAC Player-of-the-Year award. This season, Gray led the conference in hits, homeruns, RBI and slugging percentage, while ranking second in doubles and second in batting average. It’s no surprise that the Drovers also clinched another pitching award. Sophie Williams was named Co-Pitcher-of-the-Year after another dominating season on the mound. Williams leads the SAC in strikeouts while also ranking 10th nationally for wins and strikeouts on the season. The Drovers still have game left to play as they aim to build on these statistics in the NAIA Opening Round tournament.
The Opening Round tournament will bring a multitude of new people to the city of Chickasha allowing for many opportunities to not only collaborate, but also enjoy each other’s company while rooting on our hometown team in green.
“We are proud to be the home of the University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma,” said Mayor Chris Mosley, who also serves as the chair of the USAO Board of Regents. “This opportunity will bring visitors from across the nation to our city. We hope athletes and fans enjoy their time in Chickasha and the hospitality shown by our local businesses.”
The tournament will begin May 15 with double-elimination gameplay. The Drovers will host No. 2 seed Mobile University (Ala.), No. 3 seed Cottey College, No. 4 Avila University, all of which the Drovers have faced before. The four teams will battle it out over two days. The winner of each of the 10 nationwide Opening Round Tournament brackets will advance to the NAIA Softball World Series beginning on May 25 in Columbus, Ga.
The tournament was delayed due to weather. The Drovers will return to action Tuesday, May 16 at 3 p.m. versus Avila. For a full schedule, please visit the NAIA website.
To stay up to date with the tournament, follow Drover Athletics on social media. Results, livestream information and statistics will be updated on usaoathletics.com throughout the tournament.