It’s the home stretch of the Division II softball season. There are just a few weeks for teams to stake their claim before conference tournaments begin to decide who will go on to the NCAA Regionals.
Let’s take a look at some of the more dangerous teams in DII softball.
WEST TEXAS A&M
Any team coached by Kevin Blaskowski is an immediate threat. The Lady Buffs head coach reached his 750th win last season, and kept rolling to his 800th win this season.
That’s a lot of wins.
West Texas A&M last won a national title in 2014, but came close in Denver last season once again. This year, they have one of the most explosive offenses in DII, leading in batting average (.391) and home runs per game (1.93), while being second in scoring (8.83 runs per game).
ICYMI: Here's @sheabeezus_06's walkoff at-bat in yesterday's series finale against TAMUC #Sweep #ItsWhoWeAre pic.twitter.com/BBkpX2vvkT— Lady Buff Softball (@WTSoftball) April 9, 2017
Here’s the kicker. Junior starting pitcher Kilee Halbert is really good. Entering this week, she sits at 17-2 with a 1.58 ERA.
Six Lady Buffs are batting .400 or higher. Three have double-digit home runs. And Halbert is one of the best pitchers in the nation.
That’s dangerous with a capital D.
The Lady Bisons had no softball team four years ago. Those freshman are now seniors, and are poised to make one last run for the ages.
RELATED: Harding seniors building a legacy
Harding faced arguably their biggest test of the season this past weekend, squaring off against then-No. 7 Southern Arkansas. They swept the four game series, in tightly-contested fashion.
.@Harding_SB Sweeps No. 7 Southern Arkansas on Friday; Peyton Mills Drives in Four #HUBisons https://t.co/XUW8XMswcg— Harding Sports (@HardingSports) April 15, 2017
Sophomore Peyton Mills leads an offense that is in the top 40 in batting average and scoring. She is near the top in nearly every statistical team category, batting .425 with six home runs and 48 RBI.
They are equally potent in the circle. Senior Hannah Johnson will leave the school as the greatest pitcher in Lady Bisons recent yore. She has posted a 20-3 record behind a dazzling 1.29 ERA. Perhaps the most impressive player is her circle-mate, freshman Autumn Humes. Humes is 21-1 on the season with a 1.46 ERA and 197 strikeouts. She is also batting .331 with six home runs and 42 RBI.
Harding may not top the statistical charts, but they are playing for a bigger purpose. Their legacy. That’s dangerous any day.
Establishing a new program-record winning streak is good. Reeling off a 44-4 record while once again claiming the No. 1 spot in the country? That’s flat out dangerous.
MORE: Angelo State sets program-record win streak
True contenders often have to find a balance offensively and in the circle. The Rambelles have certainly done that with the No. 18 scoring offense (6.54 runs per game), while sitting at No. 4 in ERA (1.44).
The pitching staff is the two-headed monster of Kenedy Urbany and Brandy Marlett. Urbany is 16-1 with a 1.06 ERA, while Marlett is 22-3 with a 1.20 ERA, landing in DII’s top-10 in strikeouts with 216. Not only are they talented, but they are experienced as well.
The offense is led by freshman Courtney Barnhill. She is batting .399 with 10 home runs and41 RBI. Overall, the team is batting .316 with 47 home runs.
Having a Schutt Sports/ NFCA Preseason Player of the Year candidate on your roster is always a good thing. Having three? That’s down right dangerous.
While Hanna Holland hasn’t played since February, Tiffany Hollingsworth and Madison Williams have done their share to live up to the billing.
Hollingsworth — the Jacks senior infielder — paces the offense, batting .343 with six home runs and a team-best 33 RBI. Williams hurled her second no-hitter of the season this past weekend. She sits at 15-6 with a team-best 1.39 ERA and 161 strikeouts.
MORE: Humboldt State’s veteran roster ready to return to national championships
Added fuel to the fire for the Jacks? They fell one game short of the national championship in Denver last season. You can be sure this veteran roster remembers that.
The sleeper: SOUTHERN INDIANA
It’s hard to leave a team like Saint Leo with their superb pitching out of the mix. The same can be said for last week’s No. 2-ranked team, the Pfeiffer Falcons and their balance.
But every season, a team that not many expected comes out of nowhere and makes a deep run in the national championships.
This season, the Eagles soared into the NFCA Top 10 for the first time in program history. They have remained there for much of the season.
They, too, have a well-balanced attack. They can hit — ranked in the top 30 in DII with a .327 batting average — and they can pitch, ranked No. 5 in DII with a 1.47 team ERA.
Freshman Jennifer Leonhardt does a little bit of it all.
RELATED: Leonhardt has Southern Indiana soaring to new heights
Leonhardt is 22-1, the fourth most wins and the best winning percentage in DII. She has a 1.11 ERA with 145 strikeouts and tied for the Division lead with 10 shutouts.
.@USISOFTBALL FR pitcher Jennifer Leonhardt named #GLVCsb Pitcher of Week for 3rd time (https://t.co/QoN5vqAovT) #ScreaglePride #GoUSIEagles pic.twitter.com/z3dnUWM5SX— USI Athletics (@USIAthletics) April 10, 2017
The Eagles play in the battle-tested Great Lakes Valley Conference with some of the toughest teams in the nation. If they make it out of the GLVC as champions — and have anything left in the tank — they could become a fun team to watch down the stretch. When a team is having fun winning, they become that much more dangerous.
Saint Leo’s pitching has been dominant for two seasons and Stephanie Adkins continues to push them to the best in DII.
Southern Arkansas’s Brooke Goad and Maddie Dow are in the top five in home runs for one of the most power-happy teams in the nation.
Pfeiffer has a balanced pitching and offensive attack as freshman Makenzie Pennell seems to rewrite the program record books every week.
Colorado Mesa’s offense is too prolific to ignore and Brooke Hodgson has established herself as one of DII’s best hitters.
North Georgia is the PBC regular season champions and two years removed from a national championship. They are battle-tested and ready for a run.