Sixth-Ranked Bulldogs Open 2009 Season At Kentucky Wesleyan Great Lakes Challenge

Holly Bruntjens
Senior pitcher Holly Bruntjens and the nationally-ranked Bulldogs will play a 47-game regular-season schedule in 2009, which includes 16 home outings.
Ferris State University head coach Keri Becker has announced the 2009 regular-season schedule for the nationally-ranked Bulldog softball team, which is highlighted by eight home dates, two regular-season tournaments, and 26 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) regular-season contests.

The Bulldogs will begin the 2009 campaign ranked sixth place nationally in the 2009 National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Division II Preseason Top 25 Preseason Poll.

"I'm looking forward to getting back on the field this spring," said Becker, who will start her 12th year at Ferris State this 2009 season. "Despite the successful season we had last year, our team still believes it has something to prove and is ready for the challenging schedule which awaits."

Ferris State, which commences its 37th season of intercollegiate competition this spring, will open its 47-game slate on Feb. 28-March 1 at the Kentucky Wesleyan Great Lakes Challenge in Owensboro, Ky. The Bulldogs will square off against five Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) teams during the two-day season-opening tourney.

"Starting the season out at a regional crossover tournament (Kentucky Wesleyan Great Lakes Challenge) will allow us to get five games under out belts before heading to Florida," stated Becker, the 2008 GLIAC Coach of the Year Award recipient. "The Great Lakes Challenge along with the eight additional GLIAC games puts us in a position to have 13 more regional opponents which counts tremendously in the NCAA regional rankings. Winning all or even some of these games provides us with an opportunity to get a postseason bid despite the conference tournament's outcome."

FSU returns to the diamond March 7 in Florida as the Bulldogs make their annual trek to the Sunshine State for participation in the Florida Rebel Spring Games Tournament (March 7-14) in Kissimmee, Fla. Becker's squad is scheduled to play 14 games over a seven-day period with a pair of non-league outings each day. The Bulldogs will take on the likes of Northern Kentucky (March 7), Southern Indiana (March 9), St. Cloud State (March 10), Minnesota Duluth (March 13) and Concordia (Minn.) to name some of their opponents.

After those contests, Ferris State returns home and is idle until March 26 when the Bulldogs visit Cornerstone in a non-conference doubleheader at Grand Rapids, Mich.

The 26-game GLIAC schedule awaits Ferris State following that non-league twinbill as archrival Grand Valley State pays a visit to the FSU Varsity Softball Field on March 29 for the Bulldogs' home and conference opener. Fans should note that the GLIAC expanded the number of conference games this spring as eight additional league encounters will take place in April. The departures of former GLIAC members Gannon and Mercyhurst to the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) following the 2008 season and the addition of Tiffin (Ohio) to the GLIAC prompted the schedule adjustment.

The rest of Ferris State's home outings are against Lake Superior State (April 4), Northwood (April 8), Findlay (April 10), Hillsdale (April 11), Lake Superior State (April 22), Saginaw Valley State (April 25), and Wayne State (April 26) in the 2009 regular-season finale.

The remaining road portion of the Bulldogs' schedule consists of matchups at Saginaw Valley State (April 1), Northwood (April 5), Grand Valley State (April 14), Tiffin (April 18), and Ashland (April 19). Both Saginaw Valley State and Wayne State are listed as others receiving votes in the NFCA Division II Top 25 Preseason Poll.

"The conference championship has eluded us for way too long," said Becker, who holds the distinction of being the all-time winningest coach in FSU's history with a 348-227-1 bench mark. "Our number one goal for the 2009 season will be to bring the GLIAC Trophy to Ferris State."

The top eight teams in final GLIAC regular-season standings will qualify for the 2009 GLIAC Softball Tournament, which will be held May 1-3 at the Emerson Park Softball Complex in Midland, Mich., for the fifth straight year. Unlike previous seasons, the winner of this spring's double-elimination conference tourney will be crowned the GLIAC Overall Champions.

A change at the national level this season will also take place as the national softball committee has altered the regional format from an eight-team tournament to two four-team tournaments (May 8-10) with the winners playing the following weekend (May 15-16) in a super regional. All of the NCAA Division II Tournaments, both regionally and nationally, will be a double-elimination format.

The 2009 NCAA-II Softball Championship will take place May 21-25 in Salem, Va., at the James I. Moyer Sports Complex.

Ferris State is coming off a 35-18 season last spring in which the Bulldogs captured the 2008 NCAA-II Great Lakes Regional Tournament Championship title and went on to tie for fifth-place honors at the 2008 NCAA-II Softball Championships in what marked the program's third national-tourney appearance ever. FSU also turned in a first-place tying 16-4 mark in GLIAC regular-season action and concluded the 2008 season ranked fifth in the nation by the NFCA.

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