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THURSDAY, MAY 17, 2007
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NAIA teams suit up for title tournament
Oklahoma City, Mobile
returning as powers

By Mark Edwards
medwards@decaturdaily.com ∑ 340-2461

The NAIA softball championships are returning to Decatur this week, and plenty of familiar faces are back.

The field includes last year's champion, Mobile, and runner-up, California Baptist. Decatur has hosted the tournament during 1996-97 and every year since 2000, and Mobile has participated in it every time in that
span.

Oklahoma City has played in Decatur every time the city has hosted the event and will return this year.

The Stars have won seven NAIA championships, including six in Decatur.

Simon Fraser is a three-time champion, including winning the 2003 and '05 titles here.

The tournament will begin Friday at 9 a.m. at Wilson Morgan Park when California Baptist, ranked No. 1 in the season's final NAIA poll, faces Virginia-Wise in the beginning of pool play.

The championships will feature pool play Friday and Saturday before going to a double-elimination format Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

An all-tournament pass is $20. A one-day ticket is $5 for adults and $1 for students.

For Mobile, winning last year's championship didn't make the road to this year's event any easier.

The Rams lost their coach, Vincent Dima, who joined South Alabama as an assistant coach for its first season of NCAA softball.

The team also lost four starters, who transferred to South Alabama where they were eligible to play right away. That list included pitcher Linden Jones, who won most valuable player honors at last year's championships.

Under first-year coach Coby Mackin, a former Mobile All-American, the program hasn't fallen, especially when it has counted.

Before the NAIA championships, Mobile had to play in the Region XIII championships as the No. 12 team in the country but only No. 3 in the region behind Lee (Tenn.) and Shorter (Ga.).

Even though Mobile likely would've earned a bid to the NAIA championships even if it hadn't won the region, the Lady Rams still managed to win the tournament.

They beat Shorter 6-1, Lee 10-6 and Shorter again 4-2 in the double-elimination event.

So Mobile comes to Decatur on a roll and with two city natives in the starting lineup.

First baseman Jessica McIntyre (.319, nine home runs, 34 RBIs) graduated from Austin, while second baseman Taylor Lee Phillips (.308, three home runs, 31 RBIs) is a Decatur graduate.

California Baptist has finished second in each of the past two NAIA championships. This year, the Lancers enter as the top-ranked team in NAIA after taking 12 of 13 first-place votes in the final poll.

They won the Region II tournament, and that wasn't an easy task. They had to beat Point Loma Nazarene (Calif.) twice. Point Loma finished second in the NAIA in 2002 and was third in this year's final poll.

Point Loma received an at-large berth in this year's championships.

NAIA softball championships field

The NAIA softball championships will begin Friday at Decaturís Wilson Morgan Park and run through Wednesday.

Region winner: Simon Fraser (Canada)

Region winner: California Baptist

Region winner: Dickinson State (N.D.)

Region winner: Bellevue (Neb.)

Region winner: Columbia (Mo.)

Region winner: St. Gregoryís (Okla.)

Region winner: William Penn (Iowa)

Region winner: Bethel (Ind.)

Region winner: Tiffin (Ohio)

Region winner: Trevecca Nazarene (Tenn.)

Region winner: Virginia-Wise

Region winner: Mobile

Region winner: Savannah Art & Design (Ga.)

At-large: Houston Baptist (Texas)

At-large: Lee (Tenn.)

At-large: Oklahoma City

At-large: Point Loma Nazarene (Calif.)

At-large: Shorter (Ga.)

At-large: Thomas (Ga.)

At-large: Vanguard (Calif.)

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