SIOUX CITY – Home sweet home.
Morningside College softball team loves not having to leave town to play games, especially when it comes to postseason tournament time.
The Mustangs, NAIA’s ninth-ranked team, will host the Great Plains Athletic Conference post-season tournament championship series for the third straight year. It’s the third straight season the league has gone with a best two of three finals format to determine its league champion.
Game one of the best of three format begins at 11 a.m. Monday at Jensen Softball Complex. The opponent is Hastings, the GPAC’s second-place team, who won its four-team bracket with a victory over Concordia on Saturday to advance to Monday.
“I like my draw,” said Morningside coach Jessica Jones-Sitzmann. “Hastings is an offensive threat.
“Doesn’t matter, pressure is off, we’re both going now, it’s just for seeding.”
Morningside, regular season champions for the second straight season and the seventh time under 19-year head coach Jones-Sitzmann, is riding a nine-game winning streak.
Regardless of Monday’s outcome both Morningside and Hastings will advance to the NAIA National Tournament Opening Round which begins on Monday, May 15.
Morningside (38-8) is playing in the GPAC tournament title game for the 10th straight season and is looking for its eighth postseason league title in school history.
Hastings (34-21) is seeking its first GPAC tournament title since 2009, when it defeated Morningside. Morningside defeated Hastings in the 2013 GPAC tourney final.
“This group is very driven, they want to earn everything that they get,” said Jones-Sitzmann. “We talk about good teams getting better.
“We love playing at home, the opening round is going to be good for our crowds, for us to play relaxed, one game at a time.”
Morningside is 12-1 at Jensen this season, the lone loss coming against Hastings, who split a twin bill on March 26.
The Mustangs, a NAIA World Series qualifier last spring, went 19-2 at home a year ago en route to a school-record 47-10 season.
Morningside has allowed three or fewer runs in eight of the nine games during the current win streak, mostly thanks to senior lefthander Rachel Henks.
Henks, one of just three pitchers in school history to record a 30-win season is one win away from equaling Whitney McElrath’s single season school win mark of 33, set in 2006.