While most NCAA Division I softball conference tournaments around the country are getting started this week, Division II and Division III tournaments are already underway or have crowned their champions.
Belhaven University wasn’t able to reach the postseason as the Blazers continued their transition to Division III, but the Millsaps College Majors, who are also in Division III, made it all the way to the Southern Athletic Association title game.
The Majors won their first two SAA Softball Tournament games before falling 2-1 to Berry College. Millsaps then defeated Hendrix College 7-0 in its next game in the tournament and had to wait a week before playing in the conference title game due to rain. Ultimately, the Majors still couldn’t get past Berry and fell 4-2, which will end the season unless they earn an at-large bid to the Division III tournament.
In Division II, Delta State University failed to reach the Gulf South Conference Softball Tournament, but Mississippi College entered as the third seed. The Choctaws charged through the field and reached the title game, crushing the University of Alabama in Huntsville 18-5 to earn the conference’s automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.
This is Mississippi College’s first-ever GSC title in softball and the first GSC title for the college’s athletic program in general since the 1994-1995 men’s basketball team won a championship in the conference.
The Division I schools in our state will try to repeat the performance of Mississippi College when their tournaments start on Wednesday, May 10.
Alcorn State University is the No. 1 seed out of the Southwestern Athletic Conference East Division and will play Southern University, the No. 4 seed out of the West Division at 6 p.m. In the second round, the Braves will face either the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, which is the No. 2 seed out of the West, or the No. 3 seed from the East, Alabama A&M University.
In the other half of the SWAC bracket, Mississippi Valley State University is the No. 4 seed from the East and has to face the No. 1 seed from the West, Texas Southern University, at 3 p.m. The Delta Devils will then face either the No. 2 seed in the East, Alabama State University, or Prairie View A&M University, which is the No. 3 seed in the West, in the second round.
The SWAC Softball Tournament is a double-elimination tournament, with the top four teams from the East and West getting into the event. Jackson State University finished fifth in the East Division and will not participate in the tournament.
Meanwhile, the SEC Softball Tournament will be good news and bad news for Mississippi State University and the University of Mississippi. The Bulldogs and Rebels clash in the first round at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, with the good news being that one of them is guaranteed to reach the second round.
Then comes the bad news: The winner between UM and MSU will face the University of Florida Gators, who are the No. 1 seed in the tournament and the top-ranked team in the nation. Florida is 50-5 overall and finished 20-3 in SEC play and will be tough to defeat. Comparatively, both the Rebels and Bulldogs finished 10-14 in conference play. The SEC Softball Tournament is a single-game elimination tournament.
However, a little more good news for MSU and UM is that most or all the SEC teams, in some analysts’ eyes, will make the NCAA Softball Tournament.
Lastly, we have the Conference USA Tournament, which the University of Southern Mississippi will be hosting but won’t be playing in. This is an eight-team tournament that takes the top three teams in the East and West divisions with two wild-card teams with the highest conference winning percentage.
USM finished fourth in the West Division with a .391 win percentage, but two East Division teams edged out the Golden Eagles: the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with a .478 win percentage and Western Kentucky University with a .435 win percentage.