The road to Columbus, Ga., for the NAIA Softball National Championship will go through Hardeeville, as USC Beaufort was selected Tuesday as one of 10 host sites for the inaugural NAIA Softball National Championship Opening Round.
The 10th-ranked Sand Sharks will host three visiting teams in the Opening Round held May 13 to May 15, with the winner of the double-elimination tournament advancing to the NAIA National Championship held May 24 to May 30 at South Commons Softball Complex in Columbus, Ga., the site of the 1996 Olympic Games.
USCB was selected as a host site for the NAIA Baseball National Championship Opening Round last season, and the Sand Sharks won five consecutive games to advance to the Avista-NAIA World Series. This marks the first year that the NAIA Softball National Championship will utilize an Opening Round format.
"We are excited to showcase our facilities and hospitality and look forward to providing our guest schools a first-class experience," USCB director of athletics Quin Monahan said in a release. "A great thanks to the national staff for selecting us as well as our local team, especially athletics business manager Genia Montford for putting together a sensational bid."
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The Opening Round site selection process takes into account geography, facilities, student-athlete experience and host qualification. The nine other host schools are Belhaven (Miss.), Concordia (Calif.), Concordia (Ore.), Lee (Tenn.), Lindsey Wilson (Ky.), Lubbock (Texas) Christian, Oklahoma City, Park (Mo.) and Rogers State (Okla.).
"It's one giant leap for softball at USC Beaufort," head coach Ty Rietkovich said. "To go from zero to the Opening Round of the NAIA playoffs in two years, that's warp speed."
Being selected as a host school also means the Sand Sharks will have the opportunity to play at Richard Gray Sports Complex, where they are 46-5 in their two-year history, including a 20-3 mark this season.
The Sand Sharks (35-3, 11-1 Sun) host Warner for a doubleheader at 4 p.m. Friday and Southeastern for a doubleheader at 1 p.m. Saturday. With one victory against Warner, USCB would clinch the Sun Conference title.