It is tourney time. The 2022 DII softball championship is upon us, and quite honestly, this may be the deepest 64-team field we’ve seen in quite some time. While we aren’t going to try and predict the entire bracket, let’s look at a few teams that are full of intrigue in each region.
1 team to beat, 1 team to watch in each region of the DII softball championship
Team to beat: Kutztown
The Golden Bears didn’t earn the No. 1 seed by chance. PSAC champs for the first time since 2013, Kutztown went 14-8 against ranked competition in the regular season including a season series win against Bloomsburg, a split with Shippensburg, and then swept Mercyhurst to close the tournament — all of which are in the regional. The Golden Bears had the top RPI in the Atlantic and it wasn’t really close.
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Team to watch: West Virginia Wesleyan
Out of the eight teams in the region, only three have a winning record against ranked opposition. No. 1 Kutztown and No. 2 Seton Hill are two of them, and we’ll let you guess who is the third. Now, the Bobcats struggled with Fairmont State down the stretch but did sweep them earlier in the season and defeated Mercyhurst in the lone appearance against the Lakers this year, so they have experience in their part of the bracket.
Team to beat: Augustana (SD)
That’s right, the No. 3 seed may be the team to beat here. Both Rogers State and Central Oklahoma have had remarkable seasons, but come May, the Vikings turn it up a notch. They have reached the final eight in each of the last two championships and are rolling into the first-round game winners of 28 of their last 29 games. If you think that is because of a cupcake schedule, guess again. Augustana was tied for the most wins against ranked opponents (11) in the entire region heading into the conference championship.
Team to watch: Southern Arkansas
There’s just something about the Muleriders come May that makes them arguably the scariest seven seed in the tourney. Head coach Jason Anderson is no stranger to the postseason, guiding Southern Arkansas to five straight trips, which includes two final-eight appearances. The Muleriders have a tall order against a ridiculously good Central Oklahoma team in the first game, but if they can sneak past that, watch out.
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Team to beat: Adelphi
The East is always a wild card, but it seems that the best team typically finds its way through a tough field and on to Denver. Adelphi wasn’t just the best team in the East, the Panthers utterly dominated. Their .621 RPI was 38 points higher than the second highest and they went 16-7 against ranked opponents… Wilmington (DE) was next closest at 10-8. As we’ve seen several times in the past few seasons, Adelphi is tough in the circle, posting a 1.34 team ERA to go along with a ridiculous 0.82 team WHIP.
Team to watch: Wilmington (DE)
The Wildcats always seem to hit for high average and put the ball in play, which causes trouble this time of year. Plus, they were one of just three teams in the ENTIRE region with a winning record against ranked teams and fared well in general against teams with a winning record. We’ll see how the pitching holds up against stiffer competition in the bracket.
Team to beat: Southern Indiana
First, let’s make one thing clear. USI, UIndy and Grand Valley State are all worthy of being a No. 1 seed. That said, the Screaming Eagles are surging and have proven they can win against the best in the land. They defeated both Lindenwood and UIndy to win the GLVC, both of which are now in the NCAA championships. Currently riding a 12-game winning streak, Southern Indiana just seems to be clicking on all cylinders.
Team to watch: Grand Valley State
Saginaw Valley State was considered here after stunning GVSU in the GLIAC tourney, but the Lakers are one scary No. 3 seed. Lydia Goble is leading the conference in two of the three triple crown categories (average and RBI) and this pitching staff is insane. Prior to the conference tournament, the Lakers were 7-1 against ranked opponents and 20-3 against teams with a winning record. That seems pretty darn good.
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Team to beat: UT Tyler
Let’s face it. The Patriots may be the team to beat in the whole tournament. There is not a more well-balanced team in DII. The selection committee metrics show that, a 41-5 record shows that, and so do the team stats. The Patriots hit .360 as a team and scored 362 runs and they have an entire arsenal of pitchers they can turn to in a short series like the NCAA championship. The depth and talent on this team has barely slipped all season, and that one-run loss in the LSC semifinals will loom in their memories.
Team to watch: Texas A&M-Commerce
Well, it’s pretty simple, right? If the Patriots are regarded that highly, the team that bumped them from the LSC tournament is certainly a big-time threat. After getting swept by UT Tyler to close the regular season, the Lions got their revenge in the semis, but the entire tournament run was impressive. They downed Angelo State, UT Tyler and Texas A&M-Kingsville to earn the automatic bid, and all three now join the Lions in the bracket. That is quite the momentum builder.
Team to beat: Auburn Montgomery
Much like the Midwest, the top three teams in this part of the bracket are all deserving of No. 1 consideration. In fact, this may be one of the more balanced regions from top to bottom. The Warhawks have seen much of the competition in the South and have fared well, splitting early season series against Tampa and Embry-Riddle and winning their conference series against both Valdosta State and UAH, which they again beat in the GSC championship game. This team has big hitters and tough pitchers, and you don’t get to 43-9 in this region on accident.
Team to watch: Nova Southeastern
Truthfully, the correct answer is “everyone else” here, but the Sharks are intriguing. They played one of the toughest schedules in DII and finished 11-8 against ranked teams and 19-9 against teams with a winning record. That includes a three-game sweep of Tampa. Nova Southeastern isn’t going to beat you with the long ball, so teams will have to score runs against a very good pitching staff.
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Team to beat: North Georgia
Anderson (SC) and Lenoir-Rhyne are very good teams, but North Georgia is riding a bit more momentum which makes it a bit scarier. For what seems like an eternity, the Nighthawks have had one of the best pitchers in the land, with two NFCA DII pitchers of the year since 2015. The talk around Dahlonega, Georgia early in the season was, “we’ll see how the pitching comes together.” Well, as always, it came together, and North Georgia was a 42-win team and winners of its eighth-straight Peach Belt title.
Team to watch: Lincoln Memorial
Why not the Railsplitters? Lincoln Memorial closed the regular season losers of 11 in a row. That included sweeps by North Georgia, Wingate, UAH and Anderson (SC), which are all in the DII championship. Winning a tough SAC conference tournament was the safest way to ensure the committee still selected the Railsplitters this past Monday. That’s exactly what they did, including a dramatic, last-inning win against No. 1-seeded Anderson.
Team to beat: Cal State San Marcos
The Cougars are one of the best stories this season. Having not played a full season since 2019, when they were 14-31, the Cougars reeled off a 40-win season and won their first CCAA regular-season title in program history. Sure, they slipped in the championship, but this is still one of the best teams in the country. Paige Donnelly is a huge part of this turnaround and is an NFCA player of the year candidate (.442 average, 1.245 OPS, and seven home runs). Oh yeah, she’s also a freshman.
Team to watch: Cal State Dominguez Hills
There is no clear reason to pick the Toros over anyone else other than the West historically is a bit wild, and anything can, and has, happened. Who had Biola pegged for the national championship game last year? That said, the Toros are very good, and even though they dropped two to Cal State Monterey Bay in the CCAA tourney (another candidate to go the distance by the way), they took three of four against Cal State San Marcos in mid-April.