PLATTSBURGH — The confidence level can't get a whole lot higher for the Plattsburgh State softball team after what happened last week.
The Cardinals, fresh off a dominating performance in last week's NCAA Division III Tournament Amherst Regional, take on Montclair State today at 4 p.m. in the World Series in Salem, Virginia.
Plattsburgh State (35-9), after winning the State University of New York Athletic Conference title the week before, was the second seed in the Amherst Regional and went 4-0 in the double-elimination event, outscoring its opponents by an eye-popping 36-3 margin.
The Cardinals captured the regional crown with a 6-1 victory over Keene State, setting up today's game against Montclair State (42-7), which won the Union Regional, held in New Jersey.
"Our confidence level has been really good some days and not so good on others during the season," Plattsburgh coach Stephanie Zweig said. "But it's at the highest point now because this is further than this team has ever gotten.
"There will be some nerves, but the girls are excited."
The last time the Cardinals went to the World Series was in 2007 and Zweig was a pitcher on that team.
"It's really not that different than what we experienced before," she said. "It's just a different environment. It should be fun and a great experience for the girls. The game is still the same."
Eight regional winners will be competing in the double-elimination event for the Division III national championship.
In other first-round games today, it will be Linfield (42-5) versus Ohio Northern (31-12) at 11 a.m., Pacific Lutheran (41-11) against Luther (40-7) at 1:30 p.m., and Roanoke (33-9) opposing Tufts (40-5) at 6:30 p.m.
After slugging their way to the regional title, Plattsburgh now has players hitting .300 or better — Brianna Clarke (.395), Erin Florkiewicz (.390), Brittany Marshall (.346), Megan Price (.303) and Allison Smiddy (.301).
Price leads the team with seven home runs, while Clarke and Florkiewicz follow with six apiece. The Cardinals have hit 39 home runs as a team. Smiddy is tops with 37 runs-batted-in, with Clarke next with 33.
Ashley Marshall's pitching stats (25-4 record, 1.41 ERA, 269 strikeouts in 184 innings) only seem to get better if that's possible. Marshall is backed by Heather Loughran (10-5 record, 3.27 ERA, 71 strikeouts in 100 innings).
"We were coming off a good weekend at the SUNYACs and expected to play well at the regionals," Zweig said. "After our first and second games, we saw where we were headed.
"As the games went on, the more confident we became."
Montclair State, meanwhile, defeated Rowan University, 1-0, to win the Union Regional. The Red Hawks finished the tourney with a 4-0 record, including a 3-2, 8-inning win over Rowan before the victory in the finals.
The lone run of the title contest was scored in the top of the seventh on a RBI single by pinch-hitter Melany Zeller.
The Red Hawks finished 15-3 in New Jersey Athletic Conference play before losing a 3-2 decision to Rowan and then a 1-0 setback in the conference tournament title game.
Montclair, however, was still awarded the top seed in the Union Regional and Red Hawks pitcher Alex Hill outdueled Rowan's Leanne Miller in the championship game as the Red Hawks advanced to the World Series for the sixth time in the program's history.
Hill is an integral part of the team's success. She leads the Red Hawks with a .351 batting average and has a 30-4 pitching record, including a 0.93 ERA and 303 strikeouts in 234 innings.
Dana Amato is by far and away the leading power hitter for Montclair. Amato is second on the team with a .340 batting average and has rapped nine home runs and driven in 42 runs, with nobody else on the team close to her in those two categories.
Jamie Paulino has a .308 batting average, giving the Red Hawks three batters hitting over .300.
"Every team that's going to be there is good," Zweig said. "I don't know a lot about Montclair State, but it's important for us to stick to our gameplan and do what we do best."