The 2019 DII softball championship tournament field has been cut from 64 to 16. Super Regional action is set for first pitch on May 16 from eight different host sites across the country.
There are three No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdowns as Saint Anselm takes on LIU Post in the East, West Florida and Florida Tech go head-to-head in the South and Concordia (CA) and UC San Diego battle for the West. There are also two No. 1 vs. No. 3 Super Regionals as Grand Valley State hosts Indianapolis in the Midwest, and Central Oklahoma and Augustana (SD) duke it out in the Central.
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Don't get us wrong, those series will be full of plenty of excitement with some of DII softball's best programs going head to head. While there is plenty of intrigue behind those powerhouse Super Regions, let’s take a look at three that may be a bit surprising.
No. 3 West Chester vs. No. 4 Shepherd, Atlantic
We had West Chester tabbed as the sleeper in this region. There were simply too many returning pieces in the Golden Rams offense to overlook this squad’s potential. This is West Chester’s third consecutive Super Regional and it now has the chance to return to the finals for a second straight season. This team has the experience and know-how to advance and it certainly doesn’t hurt that Emily Maseth, one of their best hitters, is on a tear with 10 hits over her last five games.
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Shepherd is having a season of somewhat historic proportions. The Rams' 41 wins are tied for most in program history, so to break that record in the Super Regionals will make it rather memorable. They simply dominated in the Atlantic 1 Region posting back-to-back shutouts, including the region-clinching upset of No. 1 West Liberty. Lori Sturgill and Taylor Stocks are a tough 1-2 punch in the circle, so the matchup of two hot pitchers vs. this hot West Chester lineup should make for some exciting May softball.
No. 3 Lincoln Memorial vs. No. 5 Young Harris, Southeast
The Mountain Lions are heading back to the Super Regionals for a second consecutive season, and they are doing so in rather impressive fashion. Young Harris avenged its 2018 Super Regional sweep by North Georgia by taking 2-of-3 in the Southeast Region 1, including an impressive 5-0 victory in the championship by getting to All-American Kylee Smith early. Speaking of impressive, senior right-hander Nikkie Kovalsky had one of the most memorable performances in the regional tournaments going nine innings of no-hit ball to beat North Georgia in the Mountain Lions second game of regionals.
How about those Railsplitters? It took a walk-off victory to advance to the Super Regionals, but there was history behind it. Lincoln Memorial’s 38 wins are the most in program history, and its first-ever trip to the Super Regionals makes conference history as well, as the first South Atlantic Conference team to ever host a Super Regional. You can be sure the Railsplitters won’t want to see their historic run come to an end on their home turf in Harrogate, Tennessee which makes them a dangerous out in the Super Regionals.
No. 1 Texas A&M-Kingsville vs. No. 6 Cameron
It took a while, but the Javelinas were the best in the Lone Star Conference once again, winning the tournament for the first time since 2002. That season Texas A&M-Kingsville won 46 games, the same amount it currently has as it heads to the first Super Regional in program history. It was also the first sweep of the regular season and tournament title for the program. There has been little success against pitchers Breanna Smith (19-3, 1.60 ERA, 133 strikeouts) and Saidi Castillo (24-4, 1.97 ERA, 200 strikeouts), which they hope continues as they prepare to face a familiar LSC foe in Cameron.
Cameron is another team that found its way to the Super Regionals by way of walk-off. The Aggies are also the lowest-seeded team remaining in the hunt for the finals. These two teams have met before, with Cameron dropping two of three earlier in the season, which it hopes is not the case in May. Junior shortstop Breanna Busby has cemented herself as one of the best DII softball has to offer. She’s hitting .355 with 19 home runs and 22 stolen bases for one of the more underrated offenses in the division.