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12 May 2008

JSU will face Alabama in first round, but set to take on Florida State first

The NCAA sent JSU infielder Mary Beth Ledbetter and her teammates on Sunday to the Tuscaloosa Regional of the NCAA softball tournament, where they'll face FSU on Thursday. Photo: Trent Penny/The Anniston Star

By Al Muskewitz and Creg Stephenson
Star Sports Writers

Reprinted here in its entirety.

JACKSONVILLE Jana McGinnis reports her whole Jacksonville State softball team is excited about the draw and destination for its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1996, but a case could be made that one of her players is more excited than the rest.

The newly crowned Ohio Valley Conference champion Gamecocks (38-14) were assigned Sunday to the Tuscaloosa Regional, where they'll play Florida State (37-26) at 4 p.m. on Thursday at the Alabama Softball Complex. National No. 3 seed Alabama (51-6) will play Chattanooga (41-20) at 6:30 p.m.

Saturday's championship round will be broadcast live on ESPN2, beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Auburn also made the field of 64. The Tigers (37-20) will open against Louisiana Tech (35-27) on Friday in the College Station (Texas A&M) Regional.

The Gamecocks anticipated they would be headed to Tuscaloosa and play the Crimson Tide in their first game, but with a top 70 RPI they avoided a No. 4 regional seed, and it couldn't have turned out better for JSU designated player Kayla Collins.

The junior transferred to JSU after two seasons at Florida State and her younger sister, Allison, is a freshman catcher for the Seminoles. Both Collins girls wear No. 77, an homage to their travel team coach father Doug, who wore the number when he played football for Bear Bryant at Alabama.

"We're going to have to make her run five miles before the game she's going to be so excited," McGinnis said from her home in Spring Garden, where the team watched the selection show. "When it came on the screen I could see her heart pound through her T-shirt."

The Gamecocks last made the NCAA Tournament in their first full-fledged year in Division I. They won a play-in series at UNC-Greensboro, and then went to Washington, where they lost to Washington (2-0) and Indiana (8-0).

This might be JSU's first regional appearance in 12 years, but Collins is a postseason veteran. As a freshman, she advanced with the Seminoles to the super-regionals, and last year they played in the Tuscaloosa regional.

"I'm so excited, I can't wait for our first game," Collins said. "I know the whole team."

Alabama won the SEC West Division championship this season with a 25-3 conference mark, then finished second to Florida in the SEC tournament.

The Crimson Tide is making its 10th straight NCAA tournament appearance, its fourth straight hosting a first-round regional.

See story at The Anniston Star's website: .

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