The 2019 DII softball championship heads to Denver, Colorado for the finals. Eight teams survived regional and Super Regional tournaments to have the right to play for the national championship.
Before LIU Post and Young Harris get the party started with the first pitch of the finals, let's take a quick look at what each team brings to Denver.
LIU Post, No. 1 seed
The Pioneers are enjoying a record-setting season. They reached the 50-win plateau for the second time in program history and the Super Regional clinching win over Saint Anselm gave them No. 51, the new program record. But it’s how LIU Post got to Denver that makes it fun to watch. A walk-off grand slam helped the Pioneers advance to Super Regionals, and then a dramatic extra-inning victory sent them to the finals.
West Florida, No. 2 seed
The Argos are winners of 53 games and their first Gulf South championship since 2005. All eyes will be on freshman Teala Howard, who heads into the finals on pace to set the single-season batting average program record, hitting an unreal .470. Interestingly enough, West Florida faced its opening-round opponent for the first time in program history on March 10. The Argos won 8-3 and hope to remain perfect against West Chester in Denver.
Augustana (SD), No. 3 seed
The Vikings have one of the best offenses in the land, and arguably the best remaining in the field. No team remaining has a higher batting average (.352), more home runs (85), or scores more per game (6.95) than Augustana. There’s no one single person that is an easy out either, as nine starters are hitting over .300. The Vikings are one of just two programs in the finals — UC San Diego being the other — to have won a national championship, capturing the title in 1991.
THE TOURNAMENT, SO FAR: Every Regional and Super Regional result
Texas A&M-Kingsville, No. 4 seed
Last season, the Javelinas baseball team made history and advanced to its first finals in program history. This year, the softball team follows suit. Texas A&M-Kingsville got here by winning its first-ever Super Regional on its first-ever trip. It’s been a season full of record-setting performances. The Javelinas single-season home run record was broken by not one, but two sluggers. Anastasia Leibas and Roxy Chapa both hit 12 bombs, surpassing the previous record of 11 set twice before.
Grand Valley State, No. 5 seed
It’s been quite the postseason for the Lakers. They swept through the GLIAC tournament before going perfect in their portion of the Midwest bracket, then swept Indianapolis in two games in the Midwest Super Regional. Grand Valley State is red-hot, winners of 15 games in a row. In fact, only one other team is as hot entering the tournament. That would be the Lakers first-round opponent as the Javelinas come to Denver winners of 15 straight. We’ll see DII’s longest current winning streak come to an end this week.
UC San Diego, No. 6 seed
The Tritons survived a thrilling Super Regional against a top 10 power in Concordia (CA) to advance to their first finals since their national runners-up finish in 2012. As already mentioned, UC San Diego and Augustana are the only two teams in the field to win a championship. The Tritons are also one of two teams in the field that has its baseball counterparts still alive in the DII baseball championship. That other team? Augustana.
West Chester, No. 7 seed
The Golden Rams are the lone returner from the 2018 championship in Salem, Virginia. That team was seeded fifth in the finals and lost both games without scoring a run. While this offense is full of returners from last year, the circle is not. Pitcher Maegen Kavanagh took a backseat last year to star senior hurler Amanda Houck, but didn’t seem to mind the spotlight in 2019, going a perfect 4-0 in the Atlantic. Now she looks to remain perfect in her young postseason career.
Young Harris, No. 8
Welcome to the finals, Mountain Lions. Young Harris just won its first ever Southeast Region championship. Nikkie Kovalsky hurled the program’s fifth no-hitter in its young history, and it was a memorable one. Not only was it against the No. 5 team in the country in North Georgia, not only did she have to go nine innings to do so, but she was also nearly perfect. Kovalsky hit the first batter of the game and then sat down the next 27. How’s that for your first career no-no?