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Wayne Cavadi | NCAA.com | April 16, 2022

5 DII softball teams you do not want to play right now

DII softball preview: What to look forward to in the 2022 season

The DII softball tournament is quickly approaching. Right now, it is easy to pick out the contenders: each week you get the NFCA Top 25 and every other week, the DII softball Power 10 rankings shine some light on the teams performing the best.

However, that’s the beauty of DII softball. There hasn’t been a repeat champion this millennium and each year there are more than our fair share of surprises among the final eight. Not many had Biola penciled in to play DII powerhouse West Texas A&M, but not only did the Eagles get to the 2021 championship series, they took it to the limit.

HISTORY: DII softball programs with the most titles

So, as the regional rankings and conference tournaments get closer, let’s look at five teams that could be the surprise of the tournament in 2022.

(Note: Teams below are all outside the NFCA Top 25. All games through Friday, April 15, 2022)

Colorado Christian

The Cougars own the longest winning streak in DII softball, winners of 25 in a row. They swept a doubleheader on April 15 to get there, highlighted by Alexis Hamilton’s 11-strikeout no-hitter. Not only are the Cougars streaking, they are extremely balanced. Currently, Colorado Christian leads the RMAC in batting average (.369), home runs (74), runs scored (328) and RBI (312), but it is also tops in fielding percentage (.972) and second in team ERA at 2.59. Good luck finding a weakness here.

RANKINGS: Latest Power 10 | NFCA

Lenoir-Rhyne

The Bears were 17-16 last season and they are 32-11 as of April 15. Since a mid-March sweep by Anderson (SC), Lenoir-Rhyne is 11-2, including a split against conference foe and nationally ranked Lincoln Memorial. The Bears are strong in the pitching department, second in the SAC with a 2.39 ERA and leading the conference with 381 strikeouts. Lauren Rakes is a big part of that: She’s 17-3 with five saves, a 2.16 ERA, dazzling 0.94 WHIP and 251 strikeouts — the most in DII softball.

Washburn

The MIAA is brutally deep this year with both Rogers State and Central Oklahoma as top-10 teams. That’s why the red-hot Ichabods are the ones to worry about. Flying under the radar on the national level, Washburn is 34-11 and winners of 14 straight. Marrit Mead has been sensational pacing a very active offense, ranking in the top five in the MIAA with a .433 batting average and 20 stolen bases, while leading the conference with 48 runs scored. Jaycee Ginter is strong in the circle; she leads the MIAA with 224 strikeouts and Washburn leads the conference overall with a whopping 345.

Arkansas Tech

The Golden Suns didn’t earn any votes in the last poll, which is surprising since their 31 wins have already surpassed last year’s total. Winner of 11 in a row, Arkansas Tech certainly struggled against top-25 teams earlier in the year but it does have signature wins against the likes of Augustana (SD), Harding and Rogers State. A huge series against nationally ranked (and red-hot) Oklahoma Christian awaits this week. If you like the long ball, the Golden Suns are your team. They lead the GAC in home runs with 55, as well as runs (256) and RBI (234). If Arkansas Tech goes far, circle Tymber Riley as a player-of-the-year candidate: She’s hitting .439 with 13 home runs.

Bridgeport

The East Region is usually a wild card, with the door wide open for anyone to take. Is this the year Bridgeport reaches the final eight? The Knights are streaking at the right time, winners of their last 10 in a row. Taylor Yates (with an ECC-best seven home runs) paces the best offense in the conference, leading the ECC in batting average (.314), runs (193), home runs (24) and RBI (164). The problem for the ECC is that the Knights are also very good on the mound, leading the conference in strikeouts while ranking second with a 2.88 ERA. That’s a good balance to have this time of year, especially when a team is streaking like Bridgeport.

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