The Ottawa University softball team’s journey to a national tournament berth starts Saturday in Topeka.

The Lady Braves open their 2020 season against Hastings College for the third straight season. The renovation of the softball field is not finished yet, so the season-opening doubleheader was moved to Washburn University in Topeka.

This is the 12th meeting between the two teams. Ottawa leads the series, 8-3. Ottawa went 2-1 against the Broncos last season.

The Lady Braves return a talented and experienced squad headlined by five all-conference selections. Those returners are Sammi Bates, Kori Lacey, Tomi-Lyn Hickman (2018), Brandi Cayler and Allison Kearney. Other returners are Katy Blanchard, Amber Flummerfelt, Shayla Kaeo, Whitney Kraus, Lyndsey Loomis, Sierra Rettele, Jordyn Sage, Hailey Crowder, Jordyn Sarnecki, Annika DeJarnett, Courtney Reynolds, Alicia Rhodes and Kylee Weber. The roster includes nine seniors, six freshmen, sophomores and juniors.

Jay Kahnt begins his 19th season at the helm of the program. Kahnt has a record of 443-362. The 443 wins is the most by any coach in school history. He has guided Ottawa four KCAC regular-season championships, one KCAC Tournament championship, four NAIA National Tournament appearances and three NAIA World Series appearances.

He has coached 115 All-KCAC selections, six first team All-Region IV selections, nine NFCA All-Midwest Region selections, two KCAC Players of the Year, two KCAC Pitcher of the Year, two NAIA All-Americans and one Region IV Player of the Year. The softball team has excelled in the classroom as well, having 29 players earn NAIA Daktronics Scholar Athlete honors, nine named NFCA Scholar Athletes, five teams named a Daktronic Scholar Team, and four Capital One Academic All-District selections.

In 2019, Ottawa finished with an overall record of 27-20 and was fourth in the KCAC at 16-8. Ottawa qualified for its 13th straight KCAC Tournament and had seven players earn All-KCAC honors. Ottawa freshman shortstop Kearney was named to the KCAC Gold Glove team.

Ottawa selected to finish second in the KCAC, by the conference coaches, behind defending champions, McPherson College. This was the sixth straight season that the KCAC coaches had picked OU to finish either first or second in the KCAC.

Hastings was picked to finish 11th in the Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) by the conference coaches. The Broncos finished the 2019 season 14-26 overall and 6-16 in the GPAC, tying for 11th in the conference standings with Briar Cliff University.

The Broncos return second team All-GPAC performers Tatiem Bender, Alyssa Carter and Julia Reimer. Bender led the team this year by hitting .393 with 22 RBIs and a home run. Carter finished the year hitting .366 with 22 RBIs and a home run. Reimer had a .342 batting average with 19 RBIs along with a home run.