Road To WCWS: On The Bubble
As the softball season enters its final couple of weekends, Softball America takes a look at some teams who may be on the bubble and are in need of a solid end to the regular season and deep run in their conference tournaments.
Southern Illinois (RPI 44, 31-11)
Trailing only Drake in the Missouri Valley Conference, the Salukis of SIU close out the 2019 regular season this weekend at home against Bradley (RPI 86). A series win, or better yet, a sweep would help SIU make a strong case to be an at-large bid if they don’t win the automatic bid by winning the conference tournament.
Seven starters having a batting average of .304 or higher and senior pitcher Brianna Jones is having her best season. She is a three-time All-MVC first-team selection and has a 1.83 earned run average and is 21-7 in 35 appearances.
Big Wins: San Jose State, Mississippi State, Drake, SEMO
San Jose State (RPI 45, 32-15)
The Spartans will complete the regular without playing a Power 5 opponent. The strong conference schedule mixed with 2018 NCAA Tournament teams has put SJSU in the running for an at-large bid. Their 12-6 Mountain West record has them in second place with two regular season series to play which are against New Mexico and Nevada.
A strong finish could push the Spartans into an automatic bid by winning the conference outright since there is no conference tournament.
Big Wins: BYU, Weber State, UMass-Lowell, Fresno State (2), Boise State (3), Colorado State (1), UNLV (2)
Texas A&M (RPI 49, 27-22)
From the Women’s College World Series to Super Regionals on the brink of back-to-back WCWS berths. This season has been very different in College Station.
By winning two games against Arkansas last weekend, the Aggies are no longer in danger of finishing below .500 as they enter their final SEC series against Tennessee this weekend in Knoxville. They will be either the No. 12 or No. 13 seed in the SEC Tournament next week which will they will host at Davis Diamond.
Kendall Potts has been the ace in the circle with a 3.23 ERA and a 12-10 record. Payton McBride has been a strong No. 2 but she is also leading the offense. She has a team-high .355 batting average. .500 slugging, .427 on-base percentage and 28 RBIs.
Big Wins: Liberty (1), LSU (1), Alabama (1), Sam Houston State (2), BYU (2), Georgia (1), Arkansas (2)
Illinois (RPI 50, 27-22)
The Fighting Illini began the season in the Top 25 and are on the bubble entering the final weekend. At 6-14 in the Big Ten, Illinois currently sits in 10th place out of 14 and are tied with this weekend’s opponent, Purdue.
Bella Loya has led the offense with a .401 batting average, .717 slugging percentage, .480 on-base percentage, 12 home runs and 46 RBIs.
Sydney Sickels has a 3.59 ERA and a 17-13 record through 150.1 innings pitched and 38 appearances.
Big Wins: Oklahoma State (1), Kentucky (1), Houston (1), Tulsa (1), Wisconsin (2), Minnesota (1)
Western Kentucky (RPI 52, 33-12), La Tech (RPI 53, 39-13) and North Texas (RPI 55, 32-16) are all competing for the automatic bid from Conference USA.
As of right now, North Texas (17-4) is in first place because it holds the head-to-head with the Lady Techsters (17-4).
The Hilltoppers (15-6) are in third place overall after being swept by La Tech last weekend.
UNT hosts Middle Tennessee State this weekend, La Tech travels to Southern Mississippi and WKU hosts UT San Antonio.
The conference tournament begins May 8 in Birmingham, Ala. The winner will receive the automatic bid while the other two will be on the bubble for one, maybe two, at-large bids.
A series loss to North Alabama dropped Liberty (RPI 57) to third in the Atlantic Sun standings heading into the ASUN Tournament next week in Fort Myers, Fla. The Flames will have their eyes on this weekend’s matchup between first place Lipscomb (RPI 48) and second place Florida Gulf Coast (RPI 66) to determine if they will overtake both for the No. 1 seed.
If one of the two sweep the series, it will earn the No. 1 seed outright. If there is any type of split, Liberty will be the No. 1 seed.
According to RPI, Lipscomb and Liberty seem to be most likely to earn any type of at-large if it comes down to that.