What to know about North Carolina softball's NCAA tournament region


North Carolina third baseman Berlynne Delamora jogs in for a score after a home run against Elon on February 15.

The North Carolina softball team will travel to Oxford, Mississippi this weekend to compete in the double-elimination regional round of the 2017 NCAA Softball Championship. The Tar Heels will play Arizona State on Friday night and either Ole Miss or Southern Illinois on Saturday. Here's a quick look at each of the four teams competing.

Ole Miss

Record: 40-18, 10-14 SEC

RPI: 18

Best three-game series win (by RPI): The Rebels swept No. 14 LSU in April.

How did it do in its conference?

Don’t be deceived by Ole Miss’ losing conference record. The SEC is one of the best conferences in the country — All 13 of its teams (yes, all of them) made the NCAA Tournament. The Rebels earned the chance to host a regional when they won the SEC Tournament with wins over Mississippi State, Florida, Alabama and LSU.

Three to know

Kylan Becker: The sophomore right fielder has the second-highest batting average on her team (.372), hasn’t committed an error this season and recently became the first player in program history to earn All-SEC First Team honors.

Elantra Cox: Somehow Cox’s name was nowhere to be found on the SEC’s awards list, which is surprising, considering she’s hitting .417, leads Ole Miss in slugging percentage and has stolen 24 bases.

Kaitlin Lee: Lee has been a workhorse in the circle for the Rebels. The junior-college transfer holds a 1.78 ERA and was named the SEC Tournament MVP after throwing four straight complete games.

Arizona State

Record: 30-20, 9-15 Pac-12

RPI: 23

Best three-game series win (by RPI): The Sun Devils took two out of three games against No. 24 California earlier in the month.

How did it do in its conference?

Arizona State finished sixth in the conference standings as one of eight Pac-12 teams to make the 64-team tournament field. The Pac-12 did not hold a conference tournament and the Sun Devils were most recently swept by UCLA. Arizona State won three series against conference foes (Oregon State, Stanford and California).

Three to know

Chelsea Gonzales: The senior shortstop was one of two Sun Devils to earn All-Pac-12 First Team honors after leading Arizona State in batting average (.348) and hitting 11 home runs.

Sashel Palacios: Arizona State’s other All-Pac-12 First Team selection, Palacios is a reliable catcher behind the plate and can hit too. The senior has 10 homers in 2017 after only hitting seven during her first three seasons, and she was also named the conference's all-defensive team.

Breanna Macha: One of three starting pitchers the Sun Devils regularly use, Macha has a 2.22 ERA in 113.1 innings over 26 appearances.

North Carolina

Record: 38-19, 14-9 ACC

RPI: 34

Best three-game series win (by RPI): The Tar Heels opened their ACC slate with a sweep of No. 62 Pittsburgh in March.

How did it do in its conference?

UNC won one more game in its conference than it did a year ago and finished third in the ACC. The Tar Heels took care of business at Anderson Stadium, winning each of their four home conference series against Pittsburgh, N.C. State, Virginia and Boston College.

On the road, UNC went 4-7 in games against Virginia Tech, Notre DameSyracuse and Florida State. The Tar Heels solidified their spot in the tournament by reaching the ACC title game, where they came up short by one run against Florida State.

Three to know

Kendra Lynch: The senior slugger ranks third nationally with 21 home runs and is only three away from tying the UNC single-season record. A year removed from a 2016 season in which she pitched a ton out of necessity, Lynch can still spell first-year Brittany Pickett in the circle when needed.

Brittany Pickett: Pickett, the ACC Freshman of the Year, has been impressive her first year at the college level in more than one way. As a high schooler, Pickett first caught Papa’s attention because of what she could do at the plate. Sure enough, she’s hit .312 with 12 home runs. More importantly, Pickett has started 29 games in the circle for the Tar Heels, recording a 2.63 ERA.

Leah Murray: UNC’s lead-off hitter and a speedster, Murray’s batting average (.349) trails only Lynch’s. She has a team-best 35 stolen bases.

Southern Illinois

Record: 33-22, 17-8 Mountain Valley Conference

RPI: 88

Best three-game series win (by RPI): The Salukis won back-to-back games on the road, taking a series against No. 57 Illinois State in April.

How did it do in its conference?

During the regular season, the Salukis finished third in the MVC standings. As one of two conference champions in the Oxford regional, they won the MVC tournament as the No. 3 seed, knocking off No. 2 seed Illinois State in the semifinals before beating No. 1 seed Northern Iowa, 4-3, in the championship game.

Three to know

Shaye Harre: The senior first baseman leads Southern Illinois in batting average (.348), RBIs (40) and on-base percentage (.533).

Brianna Jones: The Salukis’ ace, Jones, holds a 2.18 ERA over 209 innings and has thrown 21 complete games.

Sydney Jones: Jones, a junior, leads Southern Illinois with nine home runs.



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