LAGRANGE – The LaGrange College Panthers, who have been one of the hottest baseball teams in the country over the past month, will look to keep the good times rolling when the USA South tournament gets under way on Thursday.
The regular-season conference games were completed on Sunday, and LaGrange College secured the number two seed for the USA South tournament that will be held in Wilson, N.C.
Eight of the conference’s 11 teams qualified for the double-elimination tournament, which will run from Thursday to Sunday.
Ferrum secured the top seed with a 15-3 conference record, and it is followed by LaGrange College (13-5), North Carolina Wesleyan (13-5), Maryville (10-8), Methodist (10-8), Covenant (9-8), Huntingdon (8-9) and Averett (7-11).
Piedmont, Greensboro and William Peace didn’t qualify for the conference tournament.
In the first round on Thursday, LaGrange College will play seventh-seeded Huntingdon at 4:30 p.m.
LaGrange College will play a second game on Friday, whether it wins its tournament opener or not.
The tournament continues through Sunday when the championship game will be played at noon.
The Panthers (27-11 overall) have won 17 of their past 19 games, and they had their 14-game winning streak snapped with Sunday’s 6-5 loss to Maryville in extra innings.
One of LaGrange College’s victims during its recent hot streak was Huntingdon.
After losing four of its first six conference games, LaGrange College won three straight games against Huntingdon.
The Panthers went on to capture 11 consecutive USA South wins before falling to Maryville in Sunday’s series finale.
LaGrange College does have one final regular-season game to play before turning its attention to the conference tournament.
LaGrange College is scheduled to host Emory at 7 p.m. today in the second of two meetings between those teams.
On March 27, an Emory team that is ranked in the top 10 in NCAA Division III lost to LaGrange College 5-0.
The winner of the conference tournament earns an automatic invitation to the Division III national tournament.
LaGrange College may have done enough already to earn an at-large bid to the national tournament.
Only one team ranked in D3baseball.com’s top 25 has more wins than LaGrange College.
Also this week, LaGrange College’s golf team will begin defense of its USA South championship.
The conference tournament will be held in Rocky Mount, N.C. from Friday through Sunday, and LaGrange College is seeded third behind Methodist and Huntingdon.
After winning the USA South title last spring, LaGrange College went on to finish second in the Division III national championship to Methodist.
Unfortunately for LaGrange College’s softball team, it won’t be defending its tournament championship.
Only the top eight teams qualified for the USA South tournament, and LaGrange College finished 11th with a 6-14 record.
LaGrange College does still have more softball to play.
The Panthers will host a doubleheader against Emory on April 23, and they’ll finish the season at Agnest Scott on April 25.
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports