PHILADELPHIA – For the first time in program history, the University of Pennsylvania softball team (30-18, 16-4 Ivy) is headed to the NCAA tournament. 2013 has been a record-breaking season thus far, and Penn has achieved the ultimate goal of an Ivy League championship. The next step in the Quakers' journey is the road to the Women’s College World Series. Penn enters the weekend as the No. 4 seed in the regional tournament hosted by No. 16 Texas A&M (39-15, 10-13 SEC) in College Station, Texas.
Penn will go head-to-head with the host Aggies on national television on Friday at 6 p.m. ET, with ESPN2 televising the program's first NCAA postseason appearance. The winner will move on to the winner’s bracket and play the victor of Friday's early matchup between Arizona and Baylor on Saturday, while the losing teams will move on to an elimination game (also to be played on Saturday).
The Red and Blue become the fifth Ivy League team to make their debut in the NCAA tournament after their Ivy League Championship Series victory over Dartmouth two weekends earlier. The four other teams to qualify for the NCAAs are Princeton, Harvard, Cornell, and Brown. The Tigers lead the Ancient Eight with an 8-16 record and are the only Ivy squad to advance to the WCWS after appearing in the eight-team tournament in back-to-back seasons (1995 and 1996). The Crimson has represented the Ivies in the tournament for the past two seasons and won two games in 2012 at the Washington regional – Harvard is 3-10 overall in NCAA postseason play. The Big Red, along with the Crimson, has appeared in five tournaments but is just 1-10 with a win over Long Beach State in 2004. The Bears went 0-2 during their lone appearance in an NCAA regional in 1997.
Penn and Texas A&M have never met before Friday, but the two teams are similar when it comes to conference rankings. Both squads are led primarily by their pitching, ranking near the top in the Ivy League and SEC, respectively. Whoever wins the battle within the circle on Friday will most likely come out on top. The probable starters for the matchup will be Alexis Borden and Mel Dumezich. Borden, a sophomore, led the Quakers with 17 victories in 179.2 innings pitched. She struck out 171 batters during that time and went the distance in 21 games, including five shutouts. Dumezich, meanwhile, boasts a 26-7 record along with her 2.36 ERA. She has amassed 201.2 innings pitched over 39 appearances this season. Look for the two star hurlers to duke it out in Game 2 of the College Station regional.
The Red and Blue totaled their most Ivy wins (16) in program history in 2013, resulting in their second consecutive South Division crown – third in program history – and ILCS appearance. After defeating Dartmouth in the three-game series, the Quakers became the first squad in the country to clinch a spot in the NCAAs.
In addition to its success as a team, Penn has seen numerous individuals shine as they approach – and break – all sorts of program records. Brooke Coloma and Borden lead the pack for the Quakers. Coloma broke the all-time record for RBI and now has 123 for her career. Additionally, she will finish in the top five in at-bats (current third, 516), steals (third, 29), runs scored (third, 98), home runs (tied for third, 18), and hits (fourth, 160). She also set the new single-season mark with 19 steals this year and needs just seven more RBI to do the same.
In just her second season in the Red and Blue, Borden is writing her name all over the record book. The sophomore already has the program's career marks in strikeouts (364) and wins (41) and is second all-time in ERA (1.90) and complete games (46), fourth in innings pitched (376.1), and fifth in games started (55). Other current Quakers in the record books are Elysse Gorney (fifth all-time, 90 runs), Jessica Melendez (fourth all-time, 16 homers), and Kayla Dahlerbruch (fifth all-time, 79 RBI).
The tournament will play out as follows. Friday will see the Bears and Wildcats square off at 3:30 p.m. ET in Game 1. Game 2 will feature the Quakers and Aggies at 6 p.m. ET. On Saturday, the action will continue with Game 3 at 3 p.m. ET, which will feature the winners of Games 1 and 2. Game 4 is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. ET, an elimination game between the two losing teams from Friday. Saturday will finish with Game 5, another elimination contest featuring the winner of Game 4 and the loser of Game 3. Sunday is the final day of play in College Station, and Game 6 will feature the winners of Games 3 and 5 at 3:30 p.m. ET. If the Game 5 winner defeats the Game 3 winner in Sunday's first contest, a winner-take-all Game 7 is scheduled for 6 p.m. ET between those same teams.
Every single game of the tournament will be televised live on the ESPN family of networks. A full schedule of events, including the television schedule and ticket information, can be found on the College Station tournament central page. Make sure to follow along with live stats during the game. Additionally, follow @UPennSoftball all weekend long for Penn’s road to the WCWS as well as live in-game updates and conversation during all of its games.