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RCTC softball to open national tournament against country's No. 1 team

May 19—It's been more than 15 years since the Rochester Community and Technical College softball team reached the NJCAA Division III national tournament.

So the Yellowjackets might as well start with the toughest challenge.

RCTC received the No. 8 seed in the tournament, which begins Wednesday, May 22, and runs through Saturday, May 25, in Chattanooga, Tenn. The Yellowjackets (19-18 overall) will face top-seeded and No. 1-ranked North Dakota State College of Science. It will be the first game of the day Wednesday, set for a noon CDT first pitch.

The Wildcats have played a hefty schedule; they bring a 51-9 record into the national tournament and are on a 10-game winning streak.

NDSCS has been dominant all season, and particularly in the postseason. They won three games by a combined score of 28-1 to capture the Region 13B championship. They followed that with two consecutive wins against College of DuPage in the District playoffs, by a combined 19-4.

RCTC and NDSCS did not meet during the regular season this year.

NDSCS hits .383 as a team, with 10 players hitting .312 or better. Five of them have batting averages of better than .400, led by sophomore catcher/third base Avery Martin from League City, Texas (.470 avg., .949 slugging pct., 93 hits, 91 RBIs, 30 doubles, 19 home runs). Freshman catcher/second base Caitlyn Dannenfelzer hits .444 with a .767 slugging pct., 84 hits, 25 doubles, 8 home runs and 41 RBIs.

Two NDSCS freshmen pitchers have shared the circle almost equally. Grace Folkema is 26-5 with a 2.06 ERA and 378 strikeouts (14.2 per 7 innings); Emma Johnson is 25-4 with a 2.85 ERA, 202 strikeouts and 7 saves.

RCTC enters the national tournament on a six-game winning streak. The Yellowjackets are led by freshmen Zoey Clark (.436 avg., .615 slugging pct., 51 hits, 12 doubles, 34 RBIs) and Kasson-Mantorville's Aubrey Grover (.333 avg., 39 hits, team-best 35 RBIs).

Clark (Viroqua, Wis.) is also the Yellowjackets' top pitcher, having thrown 119 1/3 innings, compiling a 12-6 record and a 4.34 ERA, with 76 strikeouts. Sophomore Taylor Draeger (Litchfield, Minn.) is 6-10 with a 6.16 ERA and 79 strikeouts.

The winner of the RCTC-NDSCS game will play again at 4 p.m. CDT Wednesday in a national quarterfinal game against the winner of the first-round game between RCSJ Gloucester (Sewell, N.J.) and Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute (Boone, N.C.).

The loser of the RCTC-NDSCS game will play in an elimination game at 10 a.m. CDT Thursday.

NJCAA DIVISION III NATIONAL TOURNAMENT BRACKET

(At Chattanooga, Tenn.; all times CDT)

WEDNESDAY, MAY 22

First Round

No. 8 Rochester Community & Technical College vs. No. 1 North Dakota State College of Science, noon

No. 5 Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute vs. No. 4 RCSJ Gloucester, noon

No. 7 Herkimer (N.Y.) College vs. No. 2 Patrick & Henry Community College, 2 p.m.

No. 6 C.C. of Rhode Island vs. No. 3 Corning College, 2 p.m.

Quarterfinals

RCTC/NDSCS winner vs. Caldwell/RCSJ winner, 4 p.m.

Herkimer/P&H winner vs. CCRI/Corning winner, 6 p.m.

THURSDAY, MAY 23

Elimination games

RCTC/NDSCS loser vs. Caldwell/RCSJ loser, 10 a.m.

Herkimer/P&H loser vs. CCRI/Corning loser, noon

10 a.m. elimination winner vs. RCTC/NDSCS/Caldwell/RCSJ quarterfinal loser, 2 p.m.

Noon elimination winner vs. Herkimer/P&H/CCRI/Corning quarterfinal loser, 4 p.m.

Semifinal

Wednesday's quarterfinal winners, 6 p.m.

FRIDAY, MAY 24

Seventh-place game

Teams TBD, noon

Fifth-place game

Teams TBD, 2 p.m.

Elimination games

Teams TBD, 4 p.m.

Teams TBD, 6 p.m.

SATURDAY, MAY 25

Championship game, 11 a.m.