Memorial Day weekend has been anything but predictable.
FOLLOW THE DII SOFTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP: Live updates, bracket, streaming and scores
Let’s breakdown the championship series, as well as get you caught up in the wild DII baseball tournament. Oh, and let’s not forget, Le Moyne and Lenoir-Rhyne play for the DII men’s lacrosse title on Sunday. It’s all here in this week’s DII Report.
7 things to know about the 2021 DII softball championship series
1. Biola is the No. 5 seed and West Texas A&M is the No. 6, so it is fair to say that this isn’t the matchup many expected. Apparently, both teams took offense to their lower seedings as both the Eagles and Lady Buffs are perfect in the championship bracket. To get to the championship series, Biola took down No. 4 North Georgia, No. 1 Augustana (SD) and then No. 4 North Georgia again. That’s two of the past five DII softball champions, and two of those victories were shutouts as Biola has outscored the competition 12-2 in Denver, Colo. thus far.
2. West Texas A&M had no easy trip to the finals itself. The Lady Buffs had to defeat the No. 1, 2 and 3 seed — Augustana, St. Anselm and Grand Valley State respectively — to face Biola. They did so by outscoring their opponents 19-7.
3. Biola joined the PacWest Conference in 2018, jumping from the NAIA level, so there isn’t much history to work with here. That said, this is not only the Eagles first trip to the finals, it’s their first tournament trip ever. The Eagles finished the season 19-13, their worst record of the PacWest era, yet caught fire in the postseason, going 6-1, so far.
4. West Texas A&M is the polar opposite in tournament experience. The Lady Buffs won it all in 2014 and have had five 40-win seasons, five tournament appearances and one other trip to the final eight (back in 2016 at the DII festival) since. Though they were the No. 6 seed, to say this team isn’t championship ready is an understatement.
5. The aces: Kyra Lair and Emilee Wilson combined to make 41 starts for West Texas A&M. The two combined for a 37-11 record with Lair posting a 2.64 ERA and Wilson a 2.92 mark. Paige Austin led the way for Biola going 15-6 with a 1.26 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and 164 strikeouts in 145 innings pitched.
6. The bats: Biola had seven home runs this season and Kayla Neff had six of them. She also led the team in hitting at .343, RBIs with 29 and on-base percentage at .451. West Texas A&M’s Ruby Salzman has been one of DII’s best sluggers for the past several season and this year was no different. Salzman led the Buffs in just about every statistical category, hitting .452 with a 1.262 OPS, 17 doubles, 12 home runs, 60 RBIs while adding 29 stolen bases, second-most on the team.
7. How about a statistical breakdown for each team heading into the final three games of the 2021 DII softball season. While it seems the Lady Buffs have a superior edge over Biola at the plate, the Eagles may have the edge on the mound. Whether or not Biola can silence the West Texas A&M bats will tell the story of the next two days because the Eagles do not want to get into a slugfest with the Lady Buffs.
|Statistic||Biola||West Texas A&M|
Around the horn: DII baseball regionals to conclude
And then there were six. Northwest Nazarene had a historic victory on Saturday, defeating Western Oregon to win the West regional and advance to Cary for the finals. The Nighthawks are the first team in GNAC history to find themselves among the last eight to play for the championship.
The South Central ended in a little Lone Star rematch. However, Angelo State’s bats were big, defeating West Texas A&M 18-4. Nick Novak, Jordan Williams and Jackson Hardy each had two hits and at least two RBIs as the Rams bullpen shut down the Buffs by tossing six scoreless, one-hit innings.
FULL DII BASEBALL COVERAGE: Updates, brackets and scores
That leaves six spots up for grabs over the next two days. Here’s what we’ll be watching.
- Half the No. 1 seeds — Azusa Pacific, Catawba, Colorado Mesa and Illinois Springfield — are out of contention. In a tournament that has been far from predictable, the Atlantic regional final defied the odds and is pretty much exactly what we expected. Seton Hill and Millersville will face off again for the title, with the Griffins winning Saturday by a score of 5-2. Catcher Vincenzo Rauso was the hero, driving in four including three on a fifth-inning bomb to centerfield.
- There’s still a lot to be decided in the Central Region, but Central Missouri is still going strong. No. 2 Augustana (SD) is already eliminated and No. 3 Minnesota State is playing for its tournament life on Sunday against Henderson State. The Reddies have been a pleasant surprise and may have the most insane play of the tournament thus far.
BARE HANDS BAKER 🤯 pic.twitter.com/Se9NJsTxgj
— Reddie Baseball 🏆 💍 (@ReddieBaseball) May 29, 2021
- Southern New Hampshire is cruising in the East. The Penmen have won their games 5-1, 14-6 and 9-3 to remain perfect. They have some waiting to do, as Molloy and the surprise of the East, Goldey-Beacom, play to decide who faces the Penmen in the regional finals.
- What a wild one on Saturday in the Midwest. Quincy went up 5-0 against Davenport in the second only to immediately fall behind 6-5. The Hawks then struck back in the third for three more runs, but Davenport once again came storming back. By the time the slugfest ended, the Panthers won 22-13 and sent Quincy home. The Panthers have won 16 of their last 17 games and will face Trevecca Nazarene in the finals.
- West Florida and Tampa will square off in the South and it should be a good one. Tampa has found its tournament magic and is rolling. The Argos and Spartans faced on Saturday and Tampa won in dominating fashion 17-7.
- Wingate is in the Southeast finals against Columbus State. These are two teams no one should sleep on. While the Cougars have one of our scariest lineups in DII, Wingate is simply one of the most balanced. Keep an eye on Wingate’s McCann Mellett who has been playing at an absurd level in the tourney. So far, he’s 8-for-13 with eight runs scored and eight RBIs.
DII men’s lacrosse championship set for Sunday, May 30
No. 1 seed Le Moyne will face off against Lenoir-Rhyne for the DII men’s lacrosse championship at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday. While the Dolphins are in familiar territory — going for their sixth national championship and first since 2016 — Lenoir-Rhyne will be looking to make program history with its first-ever trophy. For a recap of the tournament so far and preview of Sunday’s match, click or tap here.