Rogers State enters the 2023 DII softball season defending its first championship in program history. While that Hillcats team was well balanced and dangerous all season, they do lose a lot of their big-time performers.
That said, as defending champs, they earn the top spot in the preseason Power 10. If you follow the NCAA.com Power 10 rankings, you'll see most of the preseason top teams are very similar to how the season wrapped up last year, albeit ranked a bit differently. Since the Power 10 rankings are a blend of the eye test and tournament metrics, and none are available, returning talent played a large role in determining the current order.
ROGERS STATE'S RUN: Round-by-round recap of the 2022 DII softball championship
The 2023 DII softball Preseason Power 10
No. 1 Rogers State. It all starts here. The Hillcats do lose one of DII softball’s most prolific home run hitters in Elexis Watson, but catcher Abbey Rogers is back, who led the team in hitting, home runs and RBI. The big challenge will be replacing 54 wins in the circle with the top two starters lost to graduation. Courtney Hill was lights out in limited appearances last year, is she the next ace?
No. 2 Auburn Montgomery. You know what’s awesome about making a deep run in the DII softball championship with a young team? They all come back for another try. The Warhawks entire starting lineup from their run to Denver is back, as is ace Avery Dickerson and all three pitchers that won at least 11 games apiece last year. That kind of leadership and experience is invaluable and makes AUM a team to beat this year.
FINAL RANKINGS: How the Power 10 looked at the end of 2022
No. 3 Cal State Dominguez Hills. The Toros return their top hitter in Raquel Jaime and both of their top home run sluggers in Maiya Lopez and Kaylee Hull. Both starting pitchers, who combined for 44 of the Toros 45 wins, are back as well. With that kind of experience returning from the national runners-up run, this team is dangerous.
No. 4 North Georgia. The Nighthawks have become a power with some of the best pitching in recent history. However, this offense returns a ton of firepower. Everyone who started at least 43 games last year is back, and that includes Madi Perry who led the team with a .401 average and Madison Simmons who led the team with 13 home runs. While they didn’t have the untouchable ace of year’s past, the Nighthawks had three very good hurlers in the circle… and all three are back. That is a ton of experience for an annual contender.
No. 5 UT Tyler. The Patriots lose a ton of talent and play in one of the most power-happy conferences in DII, making every game a tough one. They do have both Kaylee Davis and Tatum Goff back in the circle (Goff is also one of the best hitters on the team) and Courtney Plocheck’s 16 home runs back, so there is plenty to contend for another trip to the tournament.
HISTORY: DII softball programs with the most titles
No. 6 Central Oklahoma. Jacee Minter, one of DII softball’s best overall hitters last year (.412, 26 doubles, 12 home runs, .759 slugging percentage), is back as are the Bronchos' top-four hitters from last year. They will have to find some serious innings in the circle, as both regular starters are gone. They obviously have a tough schedule, and face MIAA champ Washburn early on, but don’t see Rogers State until April.
No. 7 Grand Valley State. The Lakers have been a presence in the DII softball Power 10 for a while and finished just outside looking in to close 2022. Lydia Goble is one of the best hitters in DII, and she returns to lead the charge after hitting .465 last season. The Lakers actually had three hitters boast .400 averages and all three are back. Ace Hannah Beatus pitched to a 0.97 ERA with more than a strikeout per inning last year and also returns. There is a lot of turnover in the Midwest, with tournament teams like Southern Indiana and Lindenwood now DI. It seems like it should be Lakers country.
No. 8 Adelphi. The dynamic duo of Claire Fon and Lindsey Hibbs, who combined for a ridiculous 1.28 ERA, a whopping 477 strikeouts and 21 shutouts, are both back in the circle and that should be all the Panthers need to fuel another deep run in the tournament. Of course, having your top three hitters back certainly helps. Adelphi does lose a bit from the lineup, but both home run leaders and all three batting average leaders are back.
No. 9 Cal State San Marcos. The Cougars lost in the Super Regionals to rival Toros, but did cap off the 2022 season with their first-ever CCAA championship. The bulk of that team returns, including Paige Donnelly who led the team in both average (.405) and home runs (7). In the circle, Cal State San Marcos had a dangerous pair in Savannah Coyle and Jayline Sloss, both of whom pitched to sub-2.00 ERAs with at least 16 wins each. Both are back and will make things tough on opposing lineups in the CCAA.
No. 10 Seton Hill. The Griffins were a fun story to watch last season. First, they toppled No. 1 Kutztown to reach Denver and then dominated Adelphi in an upset to send the Panthers home. This season, they lose two of their top five hitters, one of which was two-way star Morgan Ryan who led things in the circle as well. However, Chloe Elliott was nasty in the circle and Lauren Dellett was solid as the third starter and both return. It will be a much different season for the Griffins, who turn from the postseason hunters to the preseason hunted.
DII SOFTBALL HUB: News, updates, scores and stats
First five out (in alphabetical order)
- Angelo State: This team won 39 games last year and returns its top three hitters and best two pitchers from a year ago.
- Augustana (SD): The Vikings will have to replace the bomb-tastic power of Mary Pardo, one of DII's best home run hitters, and will be looking for a new identity in the circle, but it seems like the 2019 national champs are always a threat.
- Kutztown: Brianna Hughes, who led the team in OPS and home runs, is back with a slew of returners that helped the Golden Bears win 40 games last year. There will need to be some pitchers to step up.
- Texas A&M-Kingsville: The Javelinas are very good and could quickly find their way into the top 10. However, the Lone Star Conference, as always, is stacked, so let’s see how this team starts the season.
- Valdosta State: The Blazers made a deep run to the Super Regionals last year, and though it loses some experienced hitting, Samantha Richards and Mia DeAngelis are back in the circle. Richards was one of the best in DII last year going 28-10 with a 1.67 ERA and 310 strikeouts in 251 innings.