FLORENCE, S.C. (WBTW) — Francis Marion University (FMU) Softball celebrated earlier this week after winning the Conference Carolina’s Tournament on Monday. That victory earned them an automatic bid in the NCAA Division II Tournament, competing against 63 other programs for a national championship.

Hartsville graduate, Taylor Watford, is one of the top offensive producers for the Patriots with 12 home runs on the season and a .454 batting average. Watford reflected back on the extra-inning championship win over their rival King University.

“It was kind of crazy, we came in and we were hot coming in,” Watford said. “I feel like the energy for our team was crazy. Coming in and helping the seniors get that win against their rival, it was pretty awesome.”

While Watford and the rest of the Patriots squad have celebrated the big win, they have steered their focus to what’s ahead for them.

“I think we have a good shot to go far, and I just can’t wait to get out there and really show everybody what we have,” Watford said. “We always have each other’s back and I think that’s our biggest thing, especially in the conference tournament. We’re constantly fighting to show that we’re supposed to be here, and we’re meant to be here.”

The Patriots will be making their second straight regional appearance and are looking to have more success than they did last season. FMU bowed out quickly after going 0-2 in the region.

Head coach for the Patriots, Stacey Vallee, said the difference this year is the offense is breaking records and producing more runs.

“I think we had great hitters last year; I think they are even better this year,” Vallee said. “They are just some phenomenal hitters. They are just killing it at the plate.”

Here is where the Patriots’ team stats line up nationally as of Thursday:

(1st) Batting Average – .382

(2nd) Hits – 551

(2nd) On Base Percentage – .454

(2nd) Scoring – 447 runs (8.60 per game)

(4th) Sacrifice Flies – 25

(6th) Slugging Percentage – .593

(16th) Home Runs – 59

Francis Marion has outscored its opponents this season by 221 runs, but if they want to make a strong run in the post-season, it’s their pitching that needs to be tightened up.

I think our pitching has come around,” Vallee said. “Rachel Davis did a great job for us in the conference tournament. If she does that and then some, we’ll do well. We also have Jenna Walling behind her that was also first-team all-conference. I think if our pitching does its job, we’ll do just fine.”

Francis Marion will find out Monday morning more details about the region they will be competing in, and it is a double-elimination tournament.

The Patriots (41-11) need one more win on the season to tie the school record for most wins in a single season.