MOUNT VERNON – Cornell takes aim at its first conference softball title this weekend when the four-team, double-elimination Midwest Conference Tournament gets underway at St. Norbert's Mel Nicks Field in De Pere, Wis.
Coach Shanda Ness' Rams (20-14, 9-6 MWC), runner-up in the South Division, open play against North champion St. Norbert (19-13, 10-4 MWC) at 12 p.m. Friday. The tournament begins at 10 a.m. with South champion Lake Forest (17-16, 12-3 MWC) facing North runner-up Lawrence (19-13, 7-7 MWC).
The first-round losers meet in an elimination game at 2 p.m. Friday. The first-round winners play at 4 p.m. to conclude Day 1. The tournament resumes Saturday with the first game at 10 a.m.
A complete schedule and more tournament information and be found at MWC Softball Tournament.
The MWC champion earns the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament, which begins May 9-13 at eight regional sites.
The Rams are back in the MWC Tournament for the first time since 1992, when they finished 0-2 as the No. 4 seed. Cornell also qualified in 1989 (2-2) and 1987 (3-2), placing second both years.
Cornell enters the postseason on a roll, having won five of its last six games. The Rams played their way into the tournament by taking three of four MWC road games – swept Beloit, split with Illinois College – during the final weekend of the regular season.
The Rams have scored an MWC-best 193 runs and rank second in the league with a .315 batting average. Cornell's pitching staff is second in the conference with a 2.40 ERA, while recording a league-high 190 strikeouts.
Cornell looks to avenge a 1-0 loss to St. Norbert, played April 14 at the MWC Classic in East Peoria, Ill. The Green Knights scored the lone run in the bottom of the sixth inning. St. Norbert outhit Cornell, 4-2.
St. Norbert claimed the 2012 MWC crown, to go along with titles in 2010, 2009, 2007 and 1991. The Green Knights are making their seventh consecutive tournament appearance.
Lake Forest is in the tournament for the 14th year in a row. The Foresters won five consecutive titles from 2002-06. Lawrence returns to the postseason for the first time since 2006. The Vikings captured MWC championships in 1999, 1998 and 1997.