KANSAS CITY, Mo—The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics released the field of 32 teams for the 2011 NAIA Softball National Championship, and the University of Mobile received the host bid to the tournament.
The championship will take place May 19-25 at the Gulf Shores Sportsplex and the pool play schedule will be released Wednesday by 3 pm. The field is comprised of 27 automatic qualifiers, the host bid and four at-large selections.
Mobile (34-17) is making its first appearance since 2008, when the Lady Rams finished 2nd. The Lady Rams are making their 16th trip to the tournament, which is second-most among the field, and they boast 47 tournament wins and one National Championship (2006).
Top-ranked California Baptist, with an NAIA best 59-3 record, has been the No. 1 team in the Coaches’ Poll for the last 24 occasions. The Lancers will play in their eighth-straight National Championship and are 43-13 (.768) in postseason action. Since California Baptist took over at No. 1 starting on March 24, 2009, it holds a 154-10 (.939) overall record.
The last five national champions, dating back to 2005, all will compete in the 2011 event. Defending national champion Simon Fraser (B.C.) is back with four trophies to its credit. The Clan (14-23), who won the Association of Independent Institutions Tournament, also won the National Championship in 1999, 2003 and 2005. The four other programs to win the title are Mobile (Ala.) (2006), Oklahoma City (2007), Lubbock Christian (Texas) (2008) and California Baptist (2009). Overall, 17 teams have won at least one National Championship and only two squads have repeated as champions: Emporia State (Kan.) (1983-84) and Oklahoma City (1994-97; 2000-02).
Oklahoma City (44-12) holds the most National Championship wins with a 99-36 record and is making its 25th overall trip, which is an NAIA record. The Stars have played consecutively in the National Championship since 1992. Simon Fraser is second on the wins list (59) and is making its 15th trip.
Seven teams will be making their first appearance in the National Championship: Central Baptist (Ark.), Davenport (Mich.), Iowa Wesleyan, Reinhardt (Ga.), St. Thomas (Fla.), Simpson (Calif.) and SUNY Canton (N.Y.). Last season, there were six newcomers to the event.
Of the teams that have appeared at least one previous time, Oregon Tech is breaking the longest drought. The Lady Owls, winners of the Cascade Collegiate Conference with a 35-12 record, last made the trip in 1997. Not too far behind is Azusa Pacific (Calif.). The Cougars (32-21) are playing in their fourth event, but first since 2000.