Now through Sunday night, Dodge City will be hosting the 2018 National Junior College Athletic Association Region VI Division I Softball Tournament.
It’ll take place at Legends Park. The winner will host the Region IX champion May 9-10 for the NJCAA District E title.
The winner of that will head to St. George, Utah to compete in the NJCAA Division I Softball National Championship Tournament.
Eight teams are scheduled to compete in the double-elimination tournament. Games start today, with Butler taking on Pratt at 1 p.m.
After them, Barton and Garden City will play at 3, followed by Colby versus Northwest Kansas Tech at 5 p.m.
The Dodge City Conquistadors, as the No. 7 seed, is scheduled to play No. 2 seed Seward County at 7 p.m. tonight.
Saturday, the first game is scheduled for 9 a.m., with games starting every two hours afterward baring unforeseen delays.
What to watch for from the Conquistadors:
As could be expected based on their standing as the No. 2 seed, the Seward County Saints are a tough opening-round match for the Conquistadors, having finished the season 35-19 overall. They are led by sophomore pitcher Monique Ashley, one of the most dominant pitchers in the conference.
Ashley led all pitchers in the conference with 24 total wins this season, which tied her for third in the nation. She also led all pitchers in the conference in strikeouts (273), and her earned run average this season was the third best in the conference at 1.59.
Getting on base will be key for the Conquistadors against her.
One person they’ll want to do that with is sophomore Brittney Gonzalez. Head coach Howie Smith said before the season her role in the offense is to get on base because once she does, even if it’s just to first, it might as well be a triple or a double.
That comment was proven true in Gonzalez’s freshman year, when she stole 29 bases, which at the time was the second most a Conquistador had even stolen in a single season, behind Bre Huff who stole 36 in 2003.
Smith comment has proven even more true this year.
Gonzalez is second in the conference and sixth in the nation this year with 52 stolen bases through the end of the regular season. Ahead of her in the conference is only Colby’s Kaitlynn Withers, who has 53.
In terms of Conquistador records, Gonzalez has smashed them when it comes to stolen bases. Not only did she beat Huff’s record for a single-season by 16 (at least, because anything Gonzalez does in the Region VI Tournament will still count for record purposes), she also beat Carla Morrison’s career record of 41 stolen bases, set back in 2002-2003.
Gonzalez, with at least two games left in her team’s season, has 81 in her career.
Which means if she gets on base, the Conquistadors will almost certainly have opportunities to score.
How Dodge City plays against Seward will determine when they play Saturday. If they win, they’ll take on the winner of the game between No. 3 seed Colby versus No. 6 seed Northwest Kansas Tech. That would mean the Conquistadors played at 3 p.m. Saturday.
If the Conquistadors lose, they’ll play the loser of the same game, but instead play at 11 a.m. Saturday morning. The loser of that game would be done for the season.