EUNICE, La. – LSU Eunice will take on Illinois Central in the opening round of the 2022 NJCAA Division II National Softball Tournament on Tuesday as the national office unveiled the 16-team bracket on Friday. The Bengals are the six-seed in the tournament and will tangle with the No. 11 Cougars at 4:00PM from Choccolocco Park in Oxford, Alabama.
The Bengals have won the NJCAA National Championship six times in program history, including five of the last six times LSUE has qualified for the tournament. LSU Eunice punched its ticket to the program’s 10th National Tournament appearance as the Bengals seek the school’s 7th softball National Championship.
LSU Eunice is one of two representatives out of Region 23 that featured five teams ranked in the Top 15 of the six-team field. LSUE enters Nationals with a 34-20 record against what was statistically the most difficult schedule in junior college softball.
Chloe Bennett has enjoyed one of the most successful freshman seasons in LSUE softball history. In addition to a no-hitter and two perfect games this season, Bennett broke the single-season strikeout record in the Region 23 Championship. The Rosepine HS product sat down her 218th batter in that contest, eclipsing the mark set by Raven Cole in 2014. Bennett is 21-7 on the season with a 3.69 earned run average.
Maddie Leal paces the LSUE offense with a .426 batting average, raising her average 22 points over the Region 23 Tournament after going 8-for-15 in the Bengals’ four games. The Southeastern Louisiana signee leads the team in hits (75), runs (52) and doubles (19).
Illinois Central qualified for Nationals as the Region 24 Champion, posting a 33-18 overall record. The Cougars are led by a pair of freshmen, pitcher Kiersten Manning and two-way standout Olivia Drish.
Manning sports a 14-5 record with a 1.58 earned run average. She is ranked 12th in the nation in strikeouts (211), 10th in batting average against (.174) and 14th in earned run average (1.58). Manning also batting .293 on the year, adding 27 RBIs and eight home runs. Olivia Drish leads the Illinois Central offense with a .294 batting average and is tops on the team in home runs (13) and RBIs (47).
This will mark the second meeting between the Bengals and Cougars.
The two sides met back in 2017 with LSUE securing a 9-4 victory. Des Moines Area is the top overall seed with defending National Champion Phoenix the highest seed on the Bengals’ side of the bracket. Louisburg, Murray State College and Northwest Mississippi round out the top five seeds in the field.
All games from Choccolocco Park can be seen on the NJCAA Network online as tournament play concludes on Saturday, May 28 with a 12:00PM first pitch for the Championship Game.
2022 NJCAA Division II National Softball TournamentChoccolocco Park | Oxford, AL | May 24-28Double Elimination Tournament
First Round Matchups
1.Des Moines Area CC (50-3) vs. 16. Potomac State (41-2)
2. Phoenix College (47-6) vs. 15. Delaware Tech (31-3)
3. Louisburg College (46-3) vs. 14. Oakland CC (33-17)
4. Murray State College (45-9) vs. 13. Danville Area CC (43-13)
5. Northwest Mississippi CC (35-13) vs. Jackson CC (34-12)
6. LSU Eunice (34-20) vs. 11. Illinois Central College (33-18)
7. Kirkwood CC (44-15) vs. 10. Bryant & Stratton College (37-9)
8. Triton College (49-7) vs. 9. Kansas City Kansas CC (43-14)