Panthers to open against Murray State

John Giffin

Sports editor

Riding the wave of momentum from the first round come-from-behind, three game series win over Allen County Community College last weekend, the Neosho County Community College Panther softball team travels to Topeka to compete in the National Junior College Athletic Association Region VI District D Tournament at Hummer Sports Park Saturday.
 
The Panthers (15-7 Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference East, 25-20 overall) will play Murray State College (6-27) of Tishomingo, Okla.
 
"I'm very excited," Panther Head Softball Coach Kim Alexander said. "I think we have a very good chance to care of some business." 
 
The Aggies do not play in a conference and were invited to the Region VI playoffs by the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference. Murray State beat North Arkansas, Ark. 15-2, 11-1 in the NJCAA Div. II, Region II Championship Saturday to earn the automatic No. 3 seed.
 
"This is definitely a game we should be able to take," Alexander said. "But at the same time, if we don't show up, they'll take it from you."
 
There are two No. 3 seeds in this year's tournament. Johnson County is also a No. 3 seed and playing in the District E bracket. The winner of the District D and E tournaments will earn a spot in the NJCAA Div. II national tournament at Traceway Park in Clinton, Miss. May 13-16.
 
Labette Community College (17-5, 31-13) is the top seed in District D and the No. 2 seed in Region VI Div. II. The Cardinals open play against No. 6 Hutchinson Community College (13-9, 31-13). Neosho would play the winner of that match up in the second round, if the Panthers get past Murray State.
 
Neosho split in a double header with Labette in Parsons March 10 for the Panthers first win of the season and swept Hutchinson in Hutch March 21 during a 10-game winning streak. 
 
Labette is the favorite going into the weekend, but Hutch shouldn't be overlooked, Alexander said.
 
"It's just a different setting when you go to that next level. They're there to play. They're there to win. They're there to be the best. I wouldn't ever count (Hutch) out. They have good pitching. They have some girls that can swing it."
 
Playing a two-day tournament against multiple teams, the Panthers have been going through different scenarios in practice trying to prepare for multiple opponents.
 
"We definitely need to take one game at a time and definitely don't want to overlook anybody," Alexander said. "We kind of had to put everything into this week of practice. What we're going to see against Murray. What we're going to see against Labette. What we're going to see against Hutch. Instead of preparing for one team, we prepare for three."
 
The first game of the double elimination tournament from the capital city begins at 10 a.m. on the South Field. Labette and Hutch will be playing at the same time on the North Field. The winner semifinal will be on the North Field at 2 p.m.
 
NJCAA Region VI Div. II District D Softball Tournament
Hummer Sports Complex, Topeka.
Saturday
No. 2 Labette vs. No. 6 Hutchinson, North Field, 10 a.m. 
No. 5 Neosho vs. No. 3 Murray State, South Field, 10 a.m. 
Winner semifinal, North Field, 2 p.m. 
Loser quarterfinal, South Field, 2 p.m.
Sunday
Loser semifinal, North Field, 10 a.m.
District D final, North Field, noon.
District D final, North Field, 2 p.m. (if necessary)
 
NJCAA Region VI Div. II District E Softball Tournament
Saturday
No. 1 Highland vs. No. 8 Coffeyville, North Field, noon.
No. 3 Johnson vs. No. 4 Cowley, South Field, noon.
Winner semifinal, North Field, 4 p.m. 
Loser quarterfinal, South Field, 4 p.m.
Sunday
Loser semifinal, South Field, 10 a.m.
District E final, South Field, noon.
District E final, South Field, 2 p.m. (if necessary)

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