FLORENCE, S.C. – The NCAA announced its tournament field for the 2004 Division II women’s softball national championships and Francis Marion University was not among the chosen 48 squads.
The South Atlantic Regional will include host Kennesaw State University (61-4), Armstrong Atlantic State University (41-7), University of North Florida (45-11), Presbyterian College (44-11), USC Spartanburg (37-14), and Belmont Abbey College (31-24). The double-elimination tournament will take place May 6-9.
Francis Marion was overlooked despite its 37-17 record and the fact that the Patriots took two of three games from USCS during the 2004 season, all on the Rifles’ home field, finished ahead of the Rifles (third / fourth) in the Peach Belt Conference Tournament and during the PBC regular season (tied for fourth / sixth).
FMU won 16 of its final 19 games, including a 6-3 upset of top-ranked KSU in the PBC Tournament, to put itself into consideration for its first-ever NCAA invitation. USCS was 5-8 over its final 13 games.
The Patriots’ 37 wins are the third-most in the program’s history, and the team compiled a program-best 12 conference wins.
“Yes, we are disappointed,” said FMU second-year head coach Jack Byerley, “but we will use our strong finish as a foundation for the 2005 season. I hate that our season ended in a numerical fashion rather than on the field. If we had taken care of business, and reversed the results of several non-conference region losses, we might have gotten in ahead of USCS. The players responded well down the stretch, and we hope to keep this momentum going into fall practice and then the 2005 campaign. We lose only one senior.”
This is the second consecutive year the Peach Belt has sent four teams, its highest possible total, to the NCAAs. Presbyterian received the South Atlantic Conference’s automatic bid by winning its conference tournament, and Belmont Abbey is the Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference tournament champion.