By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma State’s softball squad is back in the NCAA tournament, rewarded for a strong season.

The Seawolves open play Friday in the Carson bracket of the NCAA Division II West Regional, taking on league rival Chico State.

The double elimination tournament, running through Sunday, also has host Cal State Dominguez Hills and Grand Canyon.
 

Sonoma State is one of five California Collegiate Athletic Association selections in the West Regional. Cal State Monterey Bay plays host to the Seaside bracket, which also has Dixie State, UC San Diego, and Montana State Billings.
 

Winners of the two tournaments face-off in a super regional on May 11-12 to represent the west region in the NCAA championship tournament May 15-19 in Louisville, Ky.
 

SSU is making its fourth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance and the fifth in the past six years. A year ago the Seawolves reached the sub-regional championship game.
 

Fifth seeded Sonoma State (35-17) made this season’s NCAA tournament after finishing fifth in the CCAA.
 

Leading SSU is 2012 CCAA Pitcher of the Year Samantha Lipperd. The junior right-hander leads the nation in strikeouts with 375, posting a 30-10 record with a 1.23 earned run average — Lipperd has not allowed a run in her last 33« innings. Lipperd took over as the team’s only pitcher in late March.
 

At the plate, Ancia Purdy, Ali Palermo and Skylynn Myers lead in hits and Petaluma High’s Shannon Kehris the RBI leader.