Northwest to Open Region 23 Tournament with LSU-Eunice
Lady Bengals ranked 15th, seeded fourth in tourney
Advancing to its third NJCAA Region 23 Tournament in as many seasons, coach Chelsea Bramlett and the 11th-ranked Northwest Mississippi Community College softball team will face a familiar postseason foe in the opening round.
With the tournament bracket officially unveiled on Thursday morning, May 4, the Rangers are seeded fifth in the 10-team tournament and will face fourth-seeded LSU-Eunice on Wednesday, May 10 at 11 a.m. Jones College, the regular season MACCC champion, will host all NJCAA Region 23 Tournament games at Community Bank Park at Gwen Magee Field.
Northwest (31-9) ended the regular season with a 20-8 conference record, clinching back-to-back 30-win seasons for the first time in program history. LSU-Eunice enters the tournament with a No. 15 national ranking, a record of 39-18, ending the regular season with victories in three of its final four games.
Both teams have become well-acquainted in the postseason over the last three seasons, beginning with the 2021 NJCAA Region 23 Tournament in Eunice, La., when the Rangers earned a 12-6 victory against the Lady Bengals. Since then, the two teams have played three times, with Northwest earning two wins in last year’s Region 23 Tournament and another in the NJCAA Division II National Championship Tournament in Oxford, Ala.
LSU-Eunice enters the postseason batting .321 as a team, led by a .417 average from Katie Salling. The freshman from Baton Rouge has also hit 16 doubles, eight home runs and three triples for 46 RBIs. Five other Lady Bengals are batting over .300 for the season, including veterans Maci Baldwin, Mari Baldwin, Madison Prejean and Abby Touchet.
In the circle, the Lady Bengals are led by sophomore ace Chloe Bennett, who has racked up 207 strikeouts and a 20-5 record in 12 complete games. Bennett also has three saves to her credit and six shutouts. Additionally, LSU-Eunice is helped by Landri Campbell and Emma Shepherd, as both players have made over 20 appearances on the season with a combined 94 strikeouts.
Northwest concluded the regular season batting .312, led by a whopping .560 batting average from sophomore McKaylee “K.K.” Polk. The Senatobia native has led the conference in several offensive categories throughout the season and she currently leads the team in home runs (23), doubles (17), runs batted in (59), walks (21), on-base percentage (.641) and slugging percentage (1.353). Additionally, Polk has only struck out once this season in 116 at-bats.
Behind Polk, the Rangers have gotten a boost from the likes of freshman Kara Johnson and sophomore Reese Vanlandingham. Johnson, a fellow Senatobia product, has smashed five homers this season with a .376 batting average and 31 RBIs, followed by a .333 average at the plate from Vanlandingham.
In the circle, Northwest sophomore Gabby Dickerson has tossed 135 strikeouts in 112.2 innings. The Olive Branch native is 15-3 on the season with nine complete games and two shutouts thrown. Behind her, Kylee Brown has moved up to a starting role, issuing 60 strikeouts against 26 walks with five complete games and a 1.96 ERA.
All games of the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament will be carried on jcbobcats.com/watch, with tickets available at jcbobcats.com/tickets.
Click here for the full tournament bracket.