But instead of waiting to see where they would be going, the Lady Eagles were waiting to see who would be coming to them.
No. 9 Reinhardt was selected as one of 10 hosts for the opening round of the NAIA tournament, an opportunity that came with an automatic bid to the tournament. The Lady Eagles also helped their cause by sweeping the Appalachian Athletic Conference’s regular-season and tournament titles.
Reinhardt (41-8) will open play Monday at 5:30 p.m., hosting Georgetown (Ky.) in the second of two games at Ken White Field. The first game will match No. 12 Biola (Calif.) and Taylor (Ind.) at 3 p.m.
Reinhardt enters the NAIA tournament on a hot streak, having won its last eight games leading up to the AAC championship against Bryan on April 25. The Lady Eagles haven’t played in the nearly three weeks since, though they continue to rank among the nation’s best in several statistical categories.
Reinhardt has three in the top eight in the country in home runs, led by Randi Wimpy’s NAIA-best 20. C.J. Browder is third with 17), while Katie Rietkovich is eighth with 15.
Wimpy is also among the NAIA’s best in slugging percentage (1.007), total bases (153) and RBIs (64).
Also key to the Reinhardt’s performance this season is freshman ace Madison Luck, a former Creekview High School standout who notched her 31st win of the season in the AAC championship.
Luck said the transition to college wasn’t that difficult. The biggest difference for her at the college level is that there are fewer games played in a season.
“I have really enjoyed the season so far,” Luck said. “My dad always told me not to focus on stats and just go out and have fun. I’ve been playing since I was in third grade, and I feel like you are more successful when just go out and have fun.”
Luck wasn’t supposed to be the Lade Eagles’ primary starter this season, but a call from coach Glen Crawford changed all that.
“I got a call from coach Crawford during Christmas break,” Luck said. “One of our junior pitchers had to have surgery, and Crawford just called me and said, ‘You’re in the circle. I hope you’re ready.’ I guess I had to step up and make the most of it. My teammates were so good through it all.”
Luck isn’t considered a strikeout pitcher, so she’s relied on her teammates to make plays in the field.
That’s never more important than it is now. Facing better pitchers and hitters, the Lady Eagles will have to be at their best.
Luck said she and her teammates are excited about hosting this week’s sectional.
“We all sat down together and watched the brackets come out,” Luck said. “Everyone is really thrilled that we get to host. It’s going to be a good tournament. I think home-field advantage is really going to give us a good push in the first couple of rounds. I’m really thrilled.”
A year ago, Reinhardt won a regional hosted by Belhaven, en route to an appearance at the NAIA championship.
Georgetown (37-13) comes into this week’s regional having won the Mid-South Conference championship to earn an automatic bid. The Lady Tigers are led offensively by Chelsea Riney, while Kayla Williams and Jessica Claxton split duties in the circle.