PLATTSBURGH -- Seven teams will compete at the Cardinals Softball Complex this weekend for a spot in the NCAA Division III Softball Championship finals. But Plattsburgh State won't be one of them.

After being knocked out of their conference tournament, the Cardinals (30-13) did not receive one of the NCAA tournament's 18 at-large bids when the 59-team field was announced Monday.

Plattsburgh was selected earlier in the season as one of the eight NCAA regional sites. The Plattsburgh Regional includes the fifth-ranked team in Division III, Montclair State, and SUNYAC Tournament champion Cortland. Play begins Thursday, and the champion advances to the finals in Salem, Va.

Cortland is the only SUNYAC team in the tournament.

Plattsburgh State was left out of the NCAA playoffs for the first time since 2005. The Cardinals seemed to be heading into the postseason strong --they finished the regular season on a 16-game winning streak. But then they hit an offensive lull in last weekend's conference tournament.

The Cardinals needed a walk-off home run to win their first game, 2-1, and then managed just one run in two losses on Day 2. Both coach Sean Cotter and first baseman Andrea Stupp said the quality of the pitching the Cardinals faced was one reason they struggled.

In their final game, they were shut out by Cortland's Katie Finch, who allowed just 15 hits all weekend and was named Most Valuable Player.

"Honestly, I don't know (what happened)," Stupp said. "I wish I could say. It wasn't for a lack of emotion. It wasn't for a lack of trying. When you get to SUNYAC ball, you're playing the best. And, frankly, the days prior, we weren't necessarily playing the better teams. Now all the pitchers are good, all of the (players) can hit, all of them can put it in play."

Plattsburgh State outscored its opponents 61-6 in its last eight games before the tournament, but just two of those games were against a tournament team (No. 6 seed Oswego). Stupp was the only Plattsburgh State player who hit above .250 in the tournament, and she and Amy Woo were the only ones with multiple hits.

"It just seemed like this year that whenever we faced really good pitching, as a collective group, instead of each looking into our own self -- I'm going to get on; I'm going to get the job done -- we looked to, Ok, someone else is going to do it. This kid's going to do it; that kid's going to do it," Cotter said. "And we kind of went back to that mode again a little bit."

Plattsburgh State tied for first place in the SUNYAC regular season, and reached the 30-win mark for the third straight year.

The Cardinals will lose six seniors, including pitchers Jaclyn Leitze and Stephanie Zweig.

"It's just hard," said Stupp, a senior. "One thing that's great about our team is that it is very diverse and we have people from all over. And that's great, but on the other hand, all of a sudden we just leave and you have Kirby (Davids) going back to Australia and people going back to Canada.

"It's just hard because you don't just play softball; you really do become friends. It's a great team. I love the girls. I'm just really proud."

Plattsburgh Regional

Day 1

No. 5 seed Eastern Connecticut vs. No. 4 seed Cortland, 10 a.m.

No. 3 St. John Fisher vs. No. 6 Springfield, noon

No. 7 Keuka vs. No. 2 Endicott, 2 p.m.

No. 1 Montclair State vs. E. Conn./Cortland winner, 4 p.m.

clewis@pressrepublican.com

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