The St. Thomas softball team was excellent in the regular season, even if not quite up to its lofty standards — finishing 32-8 overall and 17-5 in MIAC play, which was good for a fourth place finish.
That finish may have hurt, given that St. Thomas had won four straight conference titles and 15 of the last 16.
But whatever lags there were in performance during the regular season evaporated in postseason play, and on Thursday the Tommies will open play at the Division III Softball Championships in Salem, Virginia.
This will be their second-straight appearance in the tournament, which was canceled in 2020. The Tommies made the field in 2019, but lost 2-1 to Eastern Connecticut State and 3-2 to Williams.
So far, it's been a perfect 8-0 run in the postseason for St. Thomas, starting in the MIAC tournament with wins over Bethel and a two-game sweep of conference winner St. Olaf.
The Tommies entered the NCAA regional tournament as a No. 2 seed in Waverly, Iowa, with St. Olaf No. 1. They beat Webster, Coe College and Milwaukee School of Engineering before facing St. Olaf in the championship.
While the two teams split their regular season series 2-2, St. Thomas continued their mastery of the Oles in the postseason as pitchers Kendall Hopkins and Kierstin Anderson-Glass combined on a three-hit shutout in a 3-0 victory. Anderson-Glass added an RBI single in the first inning.
Now St. Thomas, seeded seventh in the eight-team field, will open against Virginia-Wesleyan, the No. 2 seed at 3 p.m. Thursday with the game available to be streamed on the NCAA website.
St. Thomas is led by Anderson-Glass, who was named second team utility-pitcher All-Midwest Region by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), and outfielder Coryn Jacobson, who made third team.
Jacobson, who is from Lino Lakes and played at Centennial, is hitting .427 (47-for-110) with three home runs, four triples, 12 doubles, 35 RBI and 47 runs scored in 40 games.
Anderson-Glass, who is from Inver Grove Heights and played at Visitation, is 17-3 as a pitcher with a 1.52 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 154 1⁄3 innings pitched. She is hitting .404 with 29 RBI and 11 runs scored in 104 at-bats.
Outgoing St. Thomas coach John Tschida is looking to guide the Tommies to a third D-III championship, joining the ones he guided them to in 2004 and '05. Tschida announced recently he is heading to St. Mary's after this season and will not stay with St. Thomas when it makes the move to Division I athletics.
Augustana prep DII title defense
While the Tommies are back in the field, Augustana (S.D.) will be looking to repeat as Division II softball champions this weekend in Denver as the No. 1 seed in the tournament. A number of its players have Minnesota ties.
The Vikings finished 47-6 overall and 28-2 in the Northern Sun Conference.
Their biggest rival on the season was Minnesota State Mankato. The Mavericks beat Augustana twice to win the NSIC tournament, but Augustana got revenge in the NCAA Central Regional, topping Mankato 2-1 and 7-0 to make the NCAA tournament field.
The Vikings feature 11 players from Minnesota on their 17-player roster, including three stars who have garnered national recognition this season and head coach Gretta Melsted is an Albert Lea native.
Ashley Mickschl of Woodbury is the staff ace, she's 26-3 with a 1.74 ERA with 131 strikeouts in 177 1⁄3 innings pitched. She's also hitting .218 with 18 RBI and 21 runs scored in 40 games. She was named to the NFCA Division II Second Team.
Mary Prado, who played at Blaine, and Torii Chute, who played at Stillwater, were named to the Third Team.
Prado, an outfielder, is hitting .329 with a team-high 20 home runs. She has 45 RBI and 56 runs scored in 53 games.
Chute, an infielder and catcher, is hitting .403 and leads the team with 60 RBI and 25 walks, she also has scored 36 runs.
Augustana will open their title defense at noon on Thursday against Valdosta State, that game is also available to be streamed on the NCAA website.