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Wayne Cavadi | NCAA.com | May 23, 2022

The 2022 DII softball championship finals, previewed

DII softball: 2022 selection show

And then there were eight.

Sixty-four teams went into regional play and after surviving super regionals, just eight teams remain in the hunt for the 2022 DII softball national championship. Play now moves to Denver, Colorado on May 26 where the eight teams will play in a double-elimination tournament to decide the next champ.

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2022 DII softball championship schedule

  • May 26, 1 p.m. ET: No. 1 UT Tyler vs. No. 8 Cal State Dominguez Hills
  • May 26, 3:30 p.m. ET: No. 4 Southern Indiana vs. No. 5 Rogers State
  • May 26, 6 p.m. ET: No. 2 Adelphi vs. No. 7 North Georgia
  • May 26, 8:30 p.m. ET: No. 3 Auburn Montgomery vs. No. 6 Seton Hill
  • May 27, 1 p.m. ET: TBD (Bracket 1 winners)
  • May 27, 3:30 p.m. ET: TBD (Bracket 2 winners)
  • May 27, 6 p.m. ET: TBD (elimination game, Bracket 1 losers)
  • May 27, 8:30 p.m. ET: TBD (elimination game, Bracket 2 losers)
  • May 28, 2 p.m. ET: TBD (elimination game, Bracket 1)
  • May 28, 4:30 p.m. ET: TBD (elimination game, Bracket 2)
  • May 29, 1 p.m. ET with 6 p.m. "if necessary" game: Bracket 1
  • May 29, 3:30 p.m. ET with 8:30 p.m. "if necessary" game: Bracket 2
  • May 30, 2 p.m. ET: Championship series, Game 1
  • May 31, 2 p.m. ET with a 4:30 p.m. "if necessary" game: Championship series, Games 2 and 3 

Prior to entering the championship, I took a look at each region and tried to pick a team to beat and an under-the-radar team to watch. Of those eight teams to beat, five — Adelphi, Southern Indiana, UT Tyler, Auburn Montgomery and North Georgia — advanced. One team to watch — Cal State Dominguez Hills — came out of the West. 

Now, we turn our attention to each of these eight teams remaining and then try and predict the championship series.

1 thing to know about each DII softball championship finals team

No. 1 UT Tyler: The Patriots have been either No. 1 or No. 2 across the rankings all season long and looked the part in the South Central Region. After a three-game battle with Texas A&M-Kingsville in the super regionals, UT Tyler is heading to its first finals in the DII era. Of course, that's part of the story: This is the Patriots' first season eligible for the DII postseason after the jump from DIII. There, the Patriots were a perennial power, winning the DIII national title in 2016. Now, this team has one of the premier offenses in the land looking to start a new chapter in its history books.

No. 2 Adelphi: The Panthers are back in the finals after winning their first East Region title since 2016. This time of year, pitching plays a huge role, and the Panthers have plenty of it. It surely helped in taking down Wilmington (DE) in the East and will help in the homer-friendly air of Denver as well. In fact, Adelphi has the second-best ERA in the field at 1.32 and the best WHIP at 0.86.

No. 3 Auburn Montgomery: The Warhawks were a force all season, even reaching No. 1 in the Power 10 rankings in late April. AUM has a nice balance of hitters and pitchers and navigated its way through a South Region where the Warhawks had to play back-to-back nationally ranked teams to advance. Now, Auburn Montgomery looks to continue its record-setting season: This is the first trip to the national finals in program history. Is a trophy in store?

No. 4 Southern Indiana: Head coach Sue Kunkle is no stranger to the finals, as she led her Screaming Eagles to the national championship in 2018, one of just two teams remaining with DII softball hardware in the trophy case. This team went toe-to-toe with an incredibly tough Grand Valley State team in the super regionals and won a pair of low-scoring, one-run games. That kind of toughness is invaluable at this point. Allie Goodin and Josie Newman are a dangerous 1-2 punch in the circle and are the ones to watch in Denver. 

No. 5 Rogers State: Two words: Elexis Watson. If you've ever watched a game at The Regency Athletic Complex, you are not only treated to a stunning backdrop but also know that the ball flies out of there. On the career active home run list, Watson is third in DII and No. 1 in the field with 59 (this is according to NCAA.org's stats). Rogers State is making its first-ever appearance and has an extremely strong pitching staff, but Watson — who homered in the historic Central Region clincher — is the one to watch in every at-bat.

No. 6 Seton Hill: This was just the third trip ever to the NCAA tournament for the Griffins and now they are another first-timer in the field. They swept No. 1-seeded Kutztown quite handily to reach Denver, including an impressive 7-0 Game 1 shutout. If pitching is the key, then the Griffins are set to play Cinderella: Their 1.23 team ERA is the best in the field and their 0.96 WHIP is equally scary. Morgan Ryan appeared in 22 games this season and posted a 1.05 ERA and 0.86 WHIP with 153 strikeouts in 133.1 innings pitched. She pitched that complete game shutout and then came on in relief to lock down the super regional win.

No. 7 North Georgia: Could there be a scarier No. 7 seed? In this inexperienced field, here are the Nighthawks, a former national champion that is on a ridiculous hot streak. They have won 12 out of their last 13 and that included their eighth PBC title in a row and the Southeast Region title. The Nighthawks have played Adelphi, their first-round opponent, in the DII tournament before. Back in 2015, they defeated the Panthers 8-0... and went on to win the national title.

No. 8 Cal State Dominguez Hills: Not many saw the Toros coming out of the West, but that is the beauty of this region. You have to go back to 2018 to find the last No. 1 seed to advance to the finals, and last year, No. 2 Biola came one game away from winning it all. CSUDH is another first-timer in Denver and is riding a ton of momentum. The Toros first had to take two of three from Concordia (CA), a team that has been top 10 numerous times this season and is currently No. 13, to get to the super regionals. They then took two of three from No. 1-seeded Cal State San Marcos, which was No. 5 in the last Power 10 rankings before the tournament. This team isn't scared of anyone... and they've proven it.

Championship series prediction: UT Tyler vs. North Georgia — For UT Tyler, it is simply a matter of being the best team in DII pretty much from start to finish. For North Georgia, it is the "been-there-before" mentality that could help. Of course, not being there before and having a "we-have-nothing-to-lose" looseness has undoubtedly helped in the past... and that's why they play the games.

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