Panthers prepare for NCAA Division III softball tournament

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FERRUM (WSLS 10 SPORTS) - After winning the USA South tournament the Ferrum softball team earned a bid to the Division III NCAA tournament for the first time since 2012. After dropping their opening game of the conference tournament.. The Panthers showed their resiliency by winning 6 straight games and capturing the championship.

"It was amazing, especially going in, we were the underdogs, we were 5th seed so no one expected us to win. It was awesome," said pitcher Courtney Rudd, who's 14-8 with a 2.86 ERA.

The fate of the Ferrum team in the region tournament was determined Monday. The Panthers are in a three team region that will play in Newport News, with Christopher Newport and Messiah College.

"It is a round robin type bracket, and there are advantages to it, because you don't have to play as many games to win the tournament that way. But there will be a quick turnaround, so you have to be ready to play," explained head coach Gerald Culler.

The team roster has eight players who all went to high school in Southwest Virginia, a big contributor is Franklin County's Logan Barbour who is batting .358. Three local athletes were named to the USA South all tournament team, Heather Mayberry from Appomattox, Heritage's Sarah Bowman and freshman Cheyenne Strickland, who is fresh off a state championship at Carroll County and was named tournament MVP.

"In high school we never thought we would win state, like no one ever thought anybody would win state. And then once we got closer, it kind of got better and better. Here, no one thought we were going to make it to the tournament at one point and then we got there and it's just getting better," said Strickland.

"Most of these girls I have grown up playing against or with in travel ball, in high school, and all of us can come here and play together as one team, it's really amazing that the Southwest Virginia has all these girls that are playing this sport," added Bowman.

The 27-16 Panthers hope to carry their momentum into the region tournament this weekend.

The team will travel to Newport News on Thursday for practice, the regional begins Friday.