MARSHALL, Texas East Texas Baptist University and Taylor Field have been selected by the NCAA to host the 2023 NCAA Division III National Softball Championship.
Taylor Field, since its updates in 2017, has become a favorite for high school postseason softball games. The facility will be shown off nationally in three years.
"We are honored that the NCAA selected ETBU and the city of Marshall to show hospitality for championship teams that will travel and have the best quality championship experience," Tiger Softball Head Coach Janae Shirley said. "ETBU Softball has been blessed through our softball complex, championship program, and support of our local community.
"We are excited to pass forward these blessings to the teams that will compete here in Marshall and utilize our outstanding facility. In addition, we are proud to be able to offer an on-a-university-campus championship experience for these premiere collegiate athletes."
Originally constructed in 1998, Taylor Field has continually been improved to ensure a quality environment.
In 2017, Tiger Softball completed fundraising for a facility enhancement campaign to secure the funds for the nationally-awarded 3,000 square foot Tiger Softball Clubhouse and athletic complex as it stands today, featuring a locker room for 32 student-athletes, coaches' offices, and lounge/den area for team meetings, academic study, and student-athlete fellowship.
In addition to the clubhouse, ETBU upgraded Taylor Field with an artificial playing surface by Symmetry Sports Construction of Mount Pleasant, Texas, in the infield and outfield, a new padded outfield/foul territory walls for enhanced player safety, backstop netting, handicapped-access stands in the left and right fields, and a berm for additional seating in center field.
Along with the pristine first-class accommodations available at ETBU's softball complex, the University plans for grandstands expansion and other facility improvements in anticipation of necessary seating for the 2023 NCAA Division III National Tournament which is scheduled for May 25-30, 2023.
The NCAA has selected more than 450 host sites for preliminary rounds and finals of predetermined championships in Divisions I, II and III to be held from 2023 through 2026 from more than 3,000 bid submissions to host, and ETBU was successful in its national tournament host bid selection through providing a first-class facility with the capacity to host these highly-coveted championships.
In 2018, the ETBU Tiger Softball Clubhouse and Taylor Field was recognized by Turface Athletics as National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Field of the Year in NCAA Division III. Selected by the NFCA Awards Committee, the top fields and stadiums in the nation are recognized for their exceptional playing surfaces and grounds maintenance.
Other winners were Texas A&M (DI), Davenport University (DII), ETBU (DIII), Georgia Gwinnett (NAIA), Vernon College (NJCAA DI), Mount San Antonio College (Cal JC), Columbia Basin College (NWAC), and Vicksburg (Miss.) HS.
In addition, ETBU's softball facility was praised as an Outstanding Design by American School & University Architectural Portfolio in early 2019, as well as received an Outstanding Project Award for excellence in educational facility design in the Fall 2018 edition of Learning by Design.
"We are grateful to our faithful supporters, alumni, coaches, and staff, who have enabled us to construct one of the top facilities in the country, and in turn, allow us the capability to host large scale softball events," ETBU Vice President for Athletics Ryan Erwin said. "These championship games within ETBU's award-winning softball facility will not only showcase ETBU softball, but will also give many the chance to see our region possibly for the first time.
"If we qualify for post-season NCAA play, as we have for 10 of the last 11 years, ETBU will have the unique opportunity to play on their home field with hometown fans."
This is the first time East Texas Baptist will host an NCAA Softball National Championship. However, Tiger Softball is no stranger to NCAA championship success.
This announcement comes on the coat-tails of their number one NCAA Division III finish as voted by the NFCA, and ETBU Softball is poised for a successful season this Spring following their 15-0 record, which was the team's first-ever undefeated season. In addition to their record-setting season and many accolades, ETBU Softball has a history of NCAA achievements, including winning the national championship title in 2010.
"Hosting this NCAA National Championship in East Texas will bring thousands to our beautiful and welcoming community," ETBU President J. Blair Blackburn said. "The Marshall and regional economy will be bolstered by this event as well as ETBU's excellence in facilities, service, and hospitality to host future NCAA tournaments.
"These championships will bring greater recognition and garner even more interest for our University here on the Hill and for the city of Marshall. We are grateful to the NCAA for selecting us to host among so many other institutions and municipalities which applied for this prestigious opportunity."