Softball Tournament Bracket Preview
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - The Southwestern Athletic Conference announced the 2018 softball tournament bracket with Alcorn State University and Texas Southern University claiming the number one seeds after clinching the eastern and western division titles, respectfully.
The tournament format is double elimination, beginning Wednesday, May 9, at Alabama State University's Barbara Williams Softball Complex in Montgomery, Ala. The championship game is set for Saturday, May 12, at 2 p.m. with the event to be broadcast on the SWAC Digital Network
Wednesday's first-round games will be played with eastern division seeds matching up against the western division.
The eight teams are seeded in the following order:
East #1 - Alcorn State University
West #1 - Texas Southern University
East #2 - Alabama A&M University
West #2 - University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff
East #3 - Alabama State University
West #3 - Prairie View A&M University
East #4 - Mississippi Valley State University
West #4 - Southern University and A&M College
First pitches of the tournament are Wednesday at 9 p.m. as the Lady Bulldogs face Prairie View A&M in game one. At noon, UAPB will take on Alabama State. The Lady Tigers will clash against the Devilettes at 3 p.m. and closing day one will be a tilt between the Lady Braves and the Jaguars.
Below are capsules for the opening-round contests. For more information, visit the 2018 SWAC Softball Tournament Central Page. The full bracket is available for viewing HERE.
East #2 Alabama A&M (21-19, 11-7 SWAC) vs. West #3 Prairie View A&M (14-20, 11-6 SWAC)
Prairie View’s Destinee Williams dominated Alabama A&M pitching during the teams’ series in mid-March. Williams hit 5-for-12 with nine RBI and six runs scored. However, Prairie View was aided by sloppy defense from Alabama A&M, as the Lady Bulldogs committed a combined 12 errors in the three games. Since then, Alabama A&M finished with a 10-5 record in SWAC play from that point. The Lady Bulldogs come into the tournament with statistically the best power-hitting offense in the league, as AAMU leads all conference teams in hitting, RBI, home runs and slugging percentage.
While fans are likely to see some runs in this opening contest -- Prairie View also fields one of the more dangerous batting orders in the league -- projected starters Lauren Hayden of AAMU (10-4 W/L, 3.53 ERA, 85 K; 2nd Team All-SWAC) and PVAMU’s Crystal Castillo (5-5 W/L, 3.48 ERA, 28 K; 1st Team All-SWAC) have the potential to make this one of the best pitching duels of the tournament.
West #2 Arkansas-Pine Bluff (16-26, 12-6 SWAC) vs. East #3 Alabama State (20-29, 10-8 SWAC)
A surprise in 2017, Arkansas-Pine Bluff may have some added motivation as the Lady Lions open the tournament against the same team that ended their run last year in one-sided fashion. UAPB comes in on the right track, having won seven of its last 10 games against SWAC opposition, including wins over Prairie View and Texas Southern. Led by likely starter Juliana Dominguez (7-6 W/L, 3.12 ERA), the scrappy Lady Lions may be able to erase last year’s sour taste.
Alabama State, however, has been a bit uneven to close the season. In spite of that, the Lady Hornets will be in familiar confines and still fields one of the most explosive offensive lineups in the conference. Projected starter Justine Jean, fresh off a 2nd Team All-SWAC honor, has shown flashes of dominance over the last month of the season, and if she can lock in, Alabama State may tstart its trek to a fourth-straight finals appearance on the right foot.
West #1 Texas Southern (22-16-1, 13-5 SWAC) vs. East #4 Mississippi Valley (14-29, 9-9 SWAC)
At first glance, this matchup stands as perhaps a mismatch in favor of Texas Southern. The Lady Tigers field by far the most overwhelming pitching corps in the league -- anchored by Player of the Year Lauren Rodriguez and 2017 Pitcher of the Year Jasmin Fulmore -- while the Devilettes’ lineup has struggled during the season. However, the slates are always wiped clean come postseason action, and if there’s any team that would know how to raise its game in those situations, it’s a Lee Smith-coached team.
The Devilettes come in arguably playing better than any other team currently in the tournament, as they have won seven of their last eight contests. Meanwhile, TSU is 3-4 in its last seven league games. Lexany Terrones and Jodeci Afoa-Tuia will have to lead the charge for MVSU as it will try to solve the Lady Tigers’ aces. Rodriguez -- the 2017 SWAC Softball Tournament MVP -- is likely to get the call, and as evidenced by her 11-1 record and 2.15 ERA, she has been largely untouchable this season.
East #1 Alcorn State (14-33, 11-7 SWAC) vs. West #4 Southern (16-21, 8-9 SWAC)
Alcorn State put together some of its best string of offense at the expense of Southern during the squads’ series in late March. However, the Lady Braves have designs of ensuring that this rematch of last year’s opening-round game goes a bit differently, as Southern surprised Alcorn on its way to a semifinal run.
The Lady Braves and Jaguars have two of the top hitters in the league with 2017-18 SWAC Hitter of the Year Taylor Hughes and Kiara Suttles, respectively. Suttles is arguably the most feared power hitter in the conference, while Hughes is the straw that stirs the drink for the Alcorn lineup. A potential area to watch will be the matchup inside the circle. Southern appears to have the edge on paper with Aubrion James (10-10 W/L, 3.50 ERA), but the Lady Braves managed to get to James in the team’s series finale. For Alcorn, Paige Taylor is likely to get the call, and she held the Jaguar lineup in check during Alcorn’s 16-2 win over SU on March 24.