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Softball | General | 5/25/2022

D-III Softball National Champ Preview

Jerry Miller     
Photo: Perfect Game
A couple of upstarts will join six traditional powers in Salem, Virginia this week for the 2022 Division-III NCAA National Championship. Moyer Sports Complex will be the site of what should be an epic week of fierce competition.
 
There is some quirkiness and a little head-scratching concerning the seedings for the 2022 National Championship. This time of year it is somewhat like splitting hairs when it comes to the pairings of the WCWS. There is no doubt, however, as to what program has earned the No. 1 seed.
 
No. 1 ranked Christopher Newport (42-1) will make the short drive to Salem as the No. 1 seeded team in the tournament. Head Coach Keith Parr’s Captains have dominated action this spring and have earned their way to the WCWS. CNU defeated the 2021 defending National Champion, the Virginia Wesleyan Marlins in the Super Regionals, winning two straight games, 3-2 and 5-2.
 
Worcester Polytechnic Institute (35-15) has been on a magical run in the postseason. They were surprise winners of their first round Regional and then, after getting soundly trounced 9-0 in the Super Regional opening game by one of the D-III standard bearers, the Tufts Jumbos, Head Coach Heather Ross’ Engineers found the intestinal fortitude to bounce back and beat Tufts, 5-1 in game two. Riding their newfound momentum, WPI then won game three in convincing style, 6-1, to advance to Salem. They’ve earned the unenviable task of taking on the country’s number one team, Christopher Newport, in the first game of the tournament. Game time is set for 11:00 am on Thursday.
 
The second game of the tournament between Texas Lutheran University out of Seguin, Texas and Berry University from Mount Berry, Ga. is where the tournament seeding may, and probably could, be called into question. Texas Lutheran (43-4) is the country’s No. 2-ranked club. They are making their third straight trip to the national tournament. They won the 2019 National Championship and played in the final series last year before losing out in game three to Virginia Wesleyan. TLU has posted a 2022 record that is only out-done by the No. 1 ranked Captains from Christopher Newport. Yet, the Bulldogs are the No. 4-seeded club in the tournament. Go figure.
 
The ‘Dogs crushed a very sound Chapman squad in the opening round and then defeated the No. 5 ranked Belhavan Blazers in two straight games, 2-1 and 6-2, in the Super Regionals only to find out that they are not only seeded fourth but, are on the same side of the tournament draw as CNU. No doubt Head Coach Wade Wilson will have his veteran and tournament-tested TLU program ready for whatever lies in front of them. They have earned their place in Salem and should have been given more consideration for a higher seed. Arguably the number two spot.
 
An argument could also be made for No. 10 ranked Berry (34-11) as the Vikings have had a solid season. There is probably no doubt that Berry’s head coach, Emily Stanley, may have looked at the seedings and the draw and thought that her team may have not been given full consideration or enough respect. Berry made quick work of Bethel (Minn.) in the Super Regionals, 2-0 and 3-1.

Nothing will change the bracket however, and the Vikings will certainly present a big challenge to Texas Lutheran, and vice versa. It will be interesting to see which of these two ranked teams plays with a bigger edge or with a larger chip on their shoulders. This classic matchup is scheduled to begin at 1:30 on Thursday and should be a great contest.
 
Salisbury (41-6), the No. 4 ranked club in the country, was chosen as the No. 2 seed in the tournament. The Seagulls, under first year coach Lacey Lord, a SU alumnus, have had a solid run through the postseason and advanced to Salem in convincing style, posting two shutout wins over unranked, but gritty and competitive, Mount St. Josephs, 1-0 and 7-0.
 
Salisbury will face off against the 7th seeded Millikin Big Blue (37-7) out of Decatur, Ill. The unranked Big Blue, co-coached by Whitney Sowers and Katie Tenboer, outslugged No. 20 Wartburg, 9-5 and 10-6, to earn their trip to the WCWS.
 
The Salisbury-Millikin match-up is scheduled for a 4:00 first pitch.
 
The No. 3-seeded Eastern Connecticut State University Warriors (43-5), the country’s No. 3 ranked club, will take on a tough No. 20 Trine University (32-11) nine in the night cap of the opening round. The final opening day contest is scheduled to start at 6:30 pm.
 
Veteran Head Coach Diana Pepin saw her Mansfield, Conn.-based ECSU group toss two shutouts to secure their berth in the national championship Elite Eight. The Warriors took down a talented Randolph-Macon program by the scores of 1-0 and 4-0.
 
The sixth-seeded Thunder beat a sound Case Western University program in straight games, 1-0 and 6-2. Under the guidance of veteran skipper Donnie Danklefsen, Trine, from Angola, Ind., is a formidable foe for anyone and has the pitching and defense to make a long run in the tournament.
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