Regionals begin on Wednesday, May 19, and the finals will start on Thursday, May 27. Here are three sleeper teams that could make a deep run in this year’s NCAA tournament.
West Liberty (35-15)
The Hilltoppers rank seventh in ERA (1.41) and eighth in WHIP (0.98). Their pitching staff is led by the talented trio of Makenzie Amend, Riley Bennington and Annie Paterson.
Amend (10-2) has a 1.15 ERA and holds opposing batters to a .148 average. Bennington (13-2) leads the club in wins and has an ERA of 1.65. Paterson (8-4) has a team-high 153 strikeouts and boasts a 1.17 ERA. Most teams have an ace at the top of the rotation. West Liberty has three.
But the Hilltoppers have offensive weapons as well. Catcher Kat Donzella and outfielder Katie Beeman haven’t missed a single game all season. Donzella is hitting .461 and slugging .786. She leads West Liberty in home runs (10) and doubles (18). Beeman is batting .359 and has a team-high 38 RBI.
The Hilltoppers will face East Stroudsburg at 10 a.m. ET on May 19 in the Atlantic region.
West Chester (30-14)
The Golden Rams rank sixth in scoring (7.7 runs per game) and seventh in team batting average (.361). Six players are hitting over .350 and all have played more than 40 games. Simply put, their lineup is loaded.
Infielder Bri Garber leads the club with a .422 average. Her 47 RBI rank second behind fellow infielder Courtney Stump, who has 54. West Chester has only hit 25 home runs this season, but 10 have come from catcher Trisha Kopinetz.
The Golden Rams used that offensive versatility to win the PSAC tournament championship. They defeated three higher-seeded teams (each in a best-of-three series) and averaged 7.3 runs per game during the tournament.
West Chester will meet Claflin at 12:30 p.m. ET on May 19 in the Atlantic region.
New Haven (27-7)
The Chargers rank 14th in ERA (1.74) and 14th in WHIP (1.01). A large part of their success is due to Ava Fitzmaurice, who could be a breakout star in the tournament.
The junior’s 0.79 ERA ranks third among players that’ve pitched at least 100 innings. Fitzmaurice is 20-3 with a WHIP of 0.81 this year. She’s also thrown 19 complete games and holds opposing batters to a .196 average.
But her effectiveness goes beyond the mound. She leads New Haven in batting average (.387), hits (41) and home runs (5). Fitzmaurice is one of three players that’ve appeared in all 34 games for the Chargers.
New Haven will play Molloy at 11 a.m. ET on May 19 in the East region.