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OFF TO DODGE: Jimmie softball qualifies for NAIA opening round

University of Jamestown's Meghan Ramage puts some power in a swing Monday during the North Star Athletic Association championship game in Aberdeen, S.D. John M. Steiner / The Sun

University of Jamestown softball had nothing in common with legendary lawman Wyatt Earp prior to Tuesday.

But after being awarded the No. 2 seed in the NAIA national championship opening round Dodge City Bracket, the Jimmies will be playing ball where, in the late 1870s, Earp helped keep the peace.

"I think there could be some cool things to check out," said Jimmie softball coach Kevin Gall. "There was the Pony Express and the wagon trains ... I think that kinda stuff is cool."

Jamestown (43-8) will open its second straight nationals appearance facing Midland University (Neb.) on May 14 in Dodge City, Kan. Oklahoma Wesleyan (29-19) and fifth-ranked University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma (50-5)—the bracket's top seed—comprise the rest of the four-team Dodge City pod.

Carrying a school-record 43 wins, but falling short in its quest to capture a second straight North Star Athletic Association conference tournament championship Monday in Aberdeen, S.D., the Jimmies earned an at-large bid into the double-elimination opening round.

The champions from each of the 10 opening round tournaments being held across the country will advance to the NAIA Softball World Series in Clermont, Fla. on May 25-31.

"The bases are 60 feet; the pitching rubber is 43 feet. All that stuff is the same," Gall said. "Instead of sitting back, we need to attack things a little bit more and act like we've been there before—which we have."

The Jimmies reached the national tournament for the first time since 1992 last season. Jamestown gained the national-spotlight experience, but ultimately dropped both games it played—2-1 to 13th-ranked Reinhardt (Ga.) in eight innings and 9-1 to 10th-ranked Morningside (Iowa).

Midland University, the Jimmies' first opponent next week, will be a conference rival next season when University of Jamestown enters the Great Plains Athletic Conference.

"They've had a very good tradition of softball there and they obviously have a good team this year," Gall said. "We're hoping our experience last year will benefit us. Everything was new—the banquet was new, the venue was new.

"We have to play a full seven innings as perfect as we possibly can, and if we make a few mistakes hopefully our pitchers and defense can get us out of it this year. We're due some luck."

The Jimmies are also due to score some runs. Jamestown was limited to just nine runs in three games as it fell to Dickinson State for the NSAA conference tournament title in a best-of-three-series.

The Blue Hawks defeated Jamestown 1-0 in the deciding game Monday. The Jimmies, who moved up four spots to No. 11 in the final regular-season NAIA top 25 coaches' poll, were riding an 18-game winning streak prior to the championship series with Dickinson.

"We woke up this morning and we understand that, 'Hey, the sun came up and we're proud about the way we approached the game and handled ourselves,'" Gall said. "Because of that we can feel good about what we did and fortunately this team gets to play together again."

Dickinson State (30-19) will be playing in the Fayette (Mo.) Bracket.

"We don't want to win because we've got a horseshoe in our back pocket," Gall said. "We going to have to pitch well and show up and perform."