Oakland softball headed to NCAA tournament

Just 64 teams make the NCAA tournament of 295 division one teams.

Connie Miner stood on the field amongst players, coaches and fans moments after the No. 1 Oakland softball team defeated No. 3 Wright State 7-3 to win the Horizon League tournament.

Her shirt was still damp from the ice water-filled Gatorade bucket the team dumped on her during the celebration that took place after short stop Sarah Hartley threw a ground ball to first base for the final out of the game.

“I’m just trying to soak it all in,” Miner said as she took a deep breath and looked around.

Three years ago, Miner was named head coach of the Oakland softball team — a program that hadn’t posted a winning overall record since 2003.

Her expectations for the team from day one were to work hard, believe in themselves, have faith in their teammates and get better every day.

“They bought in, and we just kept getting better,” Miner said.

But the success didn’t come easily, nor did it come without adversity.

Last year, the Grizzlies finished the season with a league record that fell one game short of qualifying them for the conference tournament.

A few months ago, they were picked by coaches to finish seventh in the league in the preseason poll.

But on the afternoon of May 9, a week after they clinched a share of first place in the regular season, they were hoisting the tournament trophy on their home field and receiving an automatic NCAA tournament bid for the first time since 2003.

“It’s a great lesson, don’t ever let anybody tell you where you belong. Don’t let anyone ever tell you you can’t do something,” Miner said.

‘Believe’ has been the theme of the season, and when the team huddled together during their celebration after the final out, they put their hands in the middle. Everyone had believe written on their wrists.

“I told them if you believe in each other, have faith, work hard and get better every day great things would come to you and they did,” Miner said.

All-tournament team selection Sara Cupp was named MVP and batter of the tournament after going 6-for-8 with five RBIs. Her RBI single in game two against No. 2 University of Illinois-Chicago brought home the only run of the game and her three-run homerun in the final game gave Oakland a comfortable lead heading into the final inning.

Hartley, Erin Kownacki and Jackie Kisman were also named to the all-tournament team. Kownacki pitched all three games and finished the tournament with a 1.71 ERA and 10 strikeouts, extending her record to 16-12 for the year.

Courtnee Johnson was named defensive player of the tournament after catching everything that came her way in left field. In the final game, her diving catch in the top of the sixth inning with two outs saved the game-tying run from scoring. 

The tournament championship is the fifth for all Oakland teams during the 2014-15 year, in just its second year as a member of the Horizon League.

“It’s a great first step, but we’re not going to stop until we win every title,” athletic director Jeff Konya said.

The Grizzlies (27-22, 14-6) were selected to face No. 3 University of Michigan (51-6, 21-2 Big Ten) during the selection show, which aired on ESPNU on Sunday, May 10.

They will play in Ann Arbor on Friday, May 16 at 6 p.m. and the game will air on ESPNU. California (38-16, 10-14 PAC-12) and Pittsburg (35-20, 11-13 ACC) are also in the Ann Arbor region.

It will be the first time the Grizzlies represent the Horizon League in the NCAA softball tournament. They are 2-4 all time in the tournament.

Final scores:

GAME 1 No. 1 OAKLAND – 6 No. 4 GREEN BAY – 5

GAME 2 No. 1 OAKLAND – 1 No. 2 UIC – 0



Sara Cupp finished with the highest batting average (.750) and tied for the most RBIs (5).

Jackie Kisman finished with the third highest batting average (.636) and tied for second in hits (7).

Sarah Hartley tied for second for the most runs scored (4).

Erin Kownacki threw the second most strikeouts (10) and had the second highest earned run average (1.71).

Oakland’s .375 batting average was the highest of all teams.


There are 295 division one softball teams. Just 64 teams make the NCAA tournament.

There are 32 conferences in division one, and the winner of each conference tournament receives an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

The other 32 teams are selected by a committee and receive what is called an at-large bid.

The top 16 teams are seeded and host regionals at their home field.

The tournament spans from May 15 to June 3 and the final eight teams remaining play in the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.