The DII softball tournament is upon us. Action begins on May 11 from 16 regional sites in the double-elimination format. You can follow all the scores right here on NCAA.com.
TOURNEY PREP: Bracket announced | Live Updates | Follow the bracket
As the season began to wind down, we dove into eight sleepers that could make a run to Chattanooga, Tennessee for the DII softball championship finals on May 25-31. Let's take a look at a team to beat and see if those sleepers changed in each region.
Team to beat: West Chester. Sure, East Stroudsburg is the No. 1 seed and is a good one at that. But do you know what 2018, 2019 and 2021 all have in common? The Golden Rams made it the final eight in each of those years. They seem to find another gear in the tournament and did have the best ERA in the PSAC to go with 36 wins and the lowest batting average against.
Team to watch: Davis & Elkins. Charleston (WV) was my sleeper, but the Senators are intriguing. Davis & Elkins, as a program, doesn't make many postseason runs, so this team, sitting at a mere 29-26 is certainly an enigma. The Senators did beat the Golden Eagles once in the MEC tournament, and as one of the big Cinderellas in the dance, may be heading into the tourney with that "we got nothing to lose" attitude... which makes them very dangerous.
Super Regional prediction: West Chester vs. Charleston (WV)
😴 🥎 😴 8 sleepers for Chattanooga
Team to beat: Central Oklahoma. The Bronchos feel like they have been a top team and contender for a while now and are rolling into the tournament, winners of 16 in a row. Shayla Harper, Terin Ritz, and Emily Deramus feel like they are impossible to keep off the bases, while Ritz has been one of the more dominating pitchers in the MIAA sitting at 21-1 overall. This team doesn't have many holes and is on absolute fire right now.
Team to watch: Southeastern Oklahoma State. If you've followed my predictions and previews in the past, you know I am like the Joker from Batman: I am an agent of chaos. I like when a team that wasn't even in the final regional rankings comes out of nowhere, wins their conference tournament, and shakes up the entire region. The Savage Storm won its first GAC tourney title in a decade and are in the field of 64 for the first time since 2014. Talk about nothing to lose.
Super Regional prediction: Central Oklahoma vs. Rogers State
Team to beat: Adelphi. The Panthers are looking for a second straight trip to the finals and with the arms they have in the circle, it wouldn't be surprising at all. Adelphi leads DII softball in strikeout-to-walk rate, is second in WHIP and third in ERA. Lindsey Hibbs is absolutely absurd as the ace, going 26-3 with a 0.52 ERA and 0.53 WHIP while striking out 363 batters in 201.2 innings pitched, helping Adelphi reel off 22 games in a row.
Team to watch: Wilmington (DE). Okay, it's not much of a stretch to say the No. 2 seed is a team to watch, but it feels like the Wildcats have been on the brink of something big for a few years running. They just wrapped up their third CACC tourney title since 2016 and were in the Super Regionals a year ago. As always, this team doesn't have a lot of power, but sure makes consistent contact and has enough in the circle to make it hard on opposing lineups.
Super Regional prediction: Adelphi vs. Wilmington
Team to beat: Grand Valley State. Now that Southern Indiana jumped to DI, this seems like the Lakers' region to lose, historically speaking. Just looking back to 2016, it has been one of the two representing the Midwest in the finals, with GVSU making appearances in 2016, 2019 and 2021. Both UIndy (the No. 1 in the Midwest) and the Lakers were stunned in their respective tournaments, which makes this week very interesting. The Greyhounds and GVSU are fantastic, but I think Lydia Goble at the plate and Hannah Beatus in the circle gives the Lakers a slight edge.
Team to watch: Lewis. Since I just mentioned how hard it is to beat the Greyhounds, the team that did it most recently — and to win the GLVC title no less — is certainly the team to watch here. The Flyers are all about the pitching as the staff combined for a very nice 1.97 ERA and 1.14 WHIP on the season. The top two in this part of the bracket are two of the toughest in the land, but Lewis has a lot of momentum and showed it has the mental toughness to hang with anyone.
Super Regional prediction: UIndy vs. Grand Valley State
Team to beat: Tampa. Shocker. The No. 1 team in the country is the team to beat. The Spartans are 40-3 behind one of the best pitching staffs in the country. Their 1.33 ERA and 0.94 WHIP are both top-five marks and they have lost just once since April began. They have two undefeated pitchers in Mary Beth Feldman (12-0) and Gwen McGinnis (10-0), and Mariah Galhouse leads the way with a 14-3 record and 1.25 ERA. The Spartans are just flat out good at softball. That said, Saint Leo may be the toughest No. 2 seed in the tournament and with one of the best RPIs in DII and one of three wins over Tampa, the Lions are going to be a tough out.
Team to watch: Mississippi College. The Choctaws keep popping up every time I dive into DII. They have one of the best offenses in DII softball and were one of the eight sleepers to watch for Chattanooga. Unfortunately, they drew the five seed, which means they need to get through Tampa to get to the Super Regionals. But if any team can match that pitching, it's the bats of Mississippi College — which hit .372 with a 1.100 OPS and 86 doubles, 85 home runs, and 430 runs scored — that could lead the stunning upset.
Super Regional prediction: Tampa vs. Saint Leo
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Team to beat: Colorado Christian. UT Tyler is so incredibly good. The Patriots have been utterly dominant since they jumped from DIII to DII. That said, there is just something to like about this Colorado Christian team. The Cougars are 55-4, are coming in hot with nine wins in a row and can obliterate the ball. On the season the team hit .334 with 121 doubles, 76 home runs and 415 runs scored but also have a pair of aces in Kali Crandall and Abrie Castillo. The Patriots will be a tough roadblock, but it feels like something magical is happening in Lakewood.
Team to watch: Oklahoma Christian. Remember the fun story last year about the Hays family and all the coaches that go head-to-head in this part of the bracket? Well, all three — dad Larry Hays at Colorado Christian, son Daren Hays at Lubbock Christian and grandson/nephew Hunter Hays at Oklahoma Christian — are back. Hunter and his uncle Daren face off to open the tournament, so it should be a good one. The Eagles made a nice run in the Lone Star Conference tournament, taking down West Texas A&M and going the distance before UT Tyler walked it off in the title game. Maybe that momentum carries over.
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Super Regional prediction: UT Tyler vs. Colorado Christian
Team to beat: North Georgia. Here's another no-brainer. The Nighthawks are a perennial DII softball power and have been a top team all season long. They are 54-6, winners of six in a row, and just won their ninth consecutive PBC tournament title. There is seemingly no weakness on this team as they hit well — .366 with 64 home runs and 486 runs scored — and pitch well — 2.62 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and 379 strikeouts in 392.1 innings. It will be surprising if North Georgia isn't in the finals for the third year in a row.
Team to watch: Francis Marion. The Patriots were my sleeper earlier this month and nothing has changed. Tied 4-4 in the final frame of the Conference Carolinas championship game, the Patriots piled on six runs to capture their first-ever tournament title. That shouldn't be surprising as Francis Marion led DII softball in hitting (.382) and runs scored (8.60 per game). This could be the Cinderella of the tournament as long as the Patriots can handle the big stage.
Super Regional prediction: North Georgia vs. Francis Marion
Team to beat: Concordia (CA). If pitching wins championships, the Golden Eagles are in good shape. The pitchers put up silly numbers this season, combining for a 0.92 ERA and 0.95 WHIP. And, unlike many other teams that have one or two strong pitchers, CUI has five pitchers that made at least seven starts and dominated. The bats are lighter than most of the teams in the tournament, but if that pitching staff is allowing one run per game, the lineup won't need much to win.
Team to watch: Cal State San Marcos. There's no telling what will happen in the Wild West, the part of the bracket that has seen Biola and Cal State Dominguez Hills have back-to-back national runner-up campaigns. The Cougars made it to the Super Regionals last year, and they are my pick to do it again this year. I can sit here and do a deep dive and list stats, but throw all that out the window. In the West, expect the unexpected.
Super Regional prediction: Concordia (CA) vs. Cal State San Marcos