Although things did not go exactly as planned for third-ranked Chapman, the Panthers defeated Buena Vista, 8-3, Sunday at Hart Park to win the West Regional and reach the NCAA Division III softball finals for the third time in four years.
The finals begin Thursday in Salem, Va.
Freshman Catie Lacy pitched a seven-hitter, striking out six and giving up one earned run. Chapman had 11 hits against Buena Vista (27-11), from Storm Lake, Iowa.
Top-seeded Chapman (35-7) advanced to the NCAA finals by winning its final four tournament games.
"That's how champions are made," Chapman Coach Janet Lloyd said. "We're excited because we expected this to be a rebuilding year of sorts, especially with three freshman pitchers.
"You always are shooting for the top, and for us that meant Virginia. But deep down, you don't know if it's really possible. But the young pitchers came through."