The Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) softball team is the No. 5 seed in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division II Softball Championship that begins May 17 at Clinton, Miss.
DMACC softball coach Bob Ligouri said he was not surprised by the seedings, noting that former national champions Phoenix Community College (PCC) and LSU-Eunice (LSUE) were going to get high seeds. Jones Community Community College (JCCC) of Ellisville, Miss., is the tournament’s No. 1 seed and Kirkwood Community College (KCC), DMACC’s arch rival in the Iowa Community College Athletic Conference (ICCAC), is seeded second, ahead of PCC and LSUE.
“We knew that the southern schools would be (high seeds),” Ligouri said. “Kirkwood had been ranked higher than us and we split with them so we doubted they would move out so we’re about where we thought we should be.”
The Bears, 46-7, will play 12th-seeded Mercyhurst Northeast (Pa.) Community College (MNCC) at 1:30 p.m. in the opening round on May 17. The two teams faced each other in an elimination game in the 2016 national championship with DMACC coming away with a 9-0 win. MNCC is 42-8 this season.
“They were all freshmen last year, but they’ve got everybody back and they’ve added a pitcher (Leighlyn Guthrie) who is their No. 1 pitcher and also bats cleanup,” Ligouri said. “I’m sure they are much more experienced this year.”
DMACC will open with freshman Molly Jacobsen in the circle. Jacobsen is 24-3 and leads the nation in earned run average at 0.97. She ranks second nationally in strikeouts with 253 over 158 and a third innings.
Sophomore Kerigan Torres of Des Moines leads the Bears in hitting with a .465 average and is one of five DMACC players hitting over .400. Sophomore Kenzi Sutton of Adel tops the Bears in home runs with nine and runs batted in with 68. Five players have hit seven or more home runs.
This season marks DMACC’s fourth consecutive appearance in the national tournament and the Bears’s fifth in the past six season. DMACC finished third in 2014 and fourth in 2015. The Bears have eight freshmen on their 2017 roster and all have played key roles in DMACC’s success this season.
“We lost some really good players from our team last year, but what has really been fun for us is to see the development of the freshmen class from last year” Ligouri said. “And we’ve been able to recruit some really good freshmen who have come in and filled the holes. I don’t think we’re going to take a backseat to very many people down here.”
Ligouri said the key to a team winning a national championship is playing within itself, staying calm and having a little luck.
“It’s just like any sport, it’s the team that plays within itself and stays calm and gets a player or two that gets hot,” Ligouri said. “Frankly, you’ve got to get lucky, get a couple of breaks here and there. If a team stays calm and you get a couple of players who really step up, then anybody can win. If you look at any national tournament anywhere, you can look at those factors. It’s a break, it’s an inch or two and you have to be able to play to your potential and stay calm. If you don’t stay calm you won’t be here very long.
“When our team came on campus in the fall, we stressed the development of a process that you’re calm, you’re focused and you have fun. We’ve had a great year and now we just have to sustain that process for three or four more days.”
The DMACC-MNCC winner will face either fourth-seeded LSUE or No. 13 Waubonsee (Ill.) Community College (WCC) in a quarterfinal game at 3:30 p.m. on May 18. The double-elimination tournament continues through May 20 when the championship game is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.