ST. GEORGE, Utah — One of the most fascinating aspects of Northeastern A&M’s 11th-ranked Lady Norse softball team has been their ability to remain grounded and not be distracted by their surroundings.
Hall of Fame coach Eric Iverson and his staff guide the No. 4 seed Lady Norse into Wednesday’s first round of the Women’s Division 1 National Junior College Athletic Association National Softball Tournament at 5 p.m. (CDT) in the Canyons Complex against No. 13 seed Trinity Valley Community College of Athens, Texas.
These two teams are in stark contrast of each other in terms of experience on the national stage.
During his 18-year career as Lady Norse head coach, Iverson has made seven trips to the NJCAA Championship while the Trinity Valley Cardinals are playing their first game ever at this level.
The TVCC program is only five years old.
“We haven’t changed one thing in our routine since we started back in January,” Iverson said. “Our attention is squarely on our own ability to hit, pitch and field the ball on a consistent basis.
“From pitch-to-pitch, out-to-out and inning-to-inning we want to make sure we take care of business,” Iverson said. “That was we don’t have to be distracted by who we play.”
While making their third consecutive trip to the national tournament, the Lady Norse are 42-9 on the season. They are riding a six-game winning streak.
Coach Ashley Johnson’s Lady Cardinals make the 1,415-mile trek with a 33-25 season record.
The Lady Cardinals are one three Texas schools participating in the tournament.
Weatherford College (48-6) received the No. 10 seed while Odessa College (46-19) is the No. 14 seed.
“When we worked out last night (Monday) it was 98 degrees at 8 p.m. St. George time,” Iverson said. “But, it was quite comfortable and was a lot better than the low 50s that we played in at Oklahoma City for the regionals a couple of weeks ago.”
Freshman right-hander Kaitlin Davis of Springdale, Ark., will start for the Lady Norse. Davis has a 26-3 overall record and a 1.24 earned run average. She has recorded 190 strike outs in 185.2 innings.
“We’ll go with Kaitlin to start, but Alex (Gilley) will be warming up because this first game is crucial,” Iverson said. “Alex has the ability to come in and shut people down because their styles are so different.”
Gilley, a sophomore from Broken Arrow, has a 15-4 season record and a 3.25 ERA in 119 innings of work.
Freshman right-fielder Lexie LaValley from Verdigris leads the Lady Norse with 31 stolen bases while posting a .404 average in 161 at-bats.
Sophomore third baseman Megan Higgins of Broken Arrow not only leads the Lady Norse with a .420 batting average, but she has 17 doubles, six home runs and 55 RBI.
Leading the Lady Cardinals is freshman center-fielder Chyna Phipps of Houston, Texas with a .367 in 109 at-bats.
Freshman pitcher Erica Jordan of Whitehouse, Texas, has a .362 batting average with a team-leading seven home runs and 42 RBIs. Jordan also has a .620 slugging percentage.
All games will be webcast online at http://www.ihigh.com/njcaatv/.