The Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) softball team takes a No. 2 seed into its first game in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division II National Championship May 22 to 25 at Clinton, Miss.
The Bears, 48-6 and riding a nine-game winning streak, are making their sixth consecutive appearance in the tournament and their seventh appearance in the past eight seasons. They finished third in 2018 and 2014 and fourth in 2015.
DMACC will face Morris Community College (MCC) in its tournament opener May 22 at 3:30 p.m. MCC comes into the tournament at 42-10.
"No year is identical to the others so we're really excited," DMACC softball coach Bob Ligouri said. "We lost so many players from last year's team and we lost some quality people off that team so it's really rewarding for our players, who worked as hard as they could to get back."
Ligouri attributed DMACC's No. 2 seed to how hard the team worked and the competition the Bears played throughout the season.
"We tried to play a very difficult schedule," Ligouri said. "I think we played only one doubleheader against a (four-year college) junior varsity team, we played no (NJCAA) Division III teams, we traveled to Georgia, we traveled to Texas, so we tried to play a tough schedule. We did that in mind that if we did well, it would help our national seed and if not, it would certainly prepare us for the competition at the end of the year."
Ligouri said he does not know a lot about MCC, but that the Titans do have a good pitcher in Kellie Faber, who is 22-0 with a 1.75 earned run average.
"At this level, every team here has earned their way here so we certainly do not think it is going to be anything but a great challenge for us so we look forward to it," Ligouri said.
DMACC will go with freshman Josie Swafford of Wellston, Okla., in its opener. Swafford is 25-1 with an 0.94 earned run average. She has struck out 219 batters in 157 innings in the circle and is averaging 9.76 strikeouts per seven innings. Swafford is second nationally in ERA and fourth in strikeouts.
"Josie has really earned the opportunity to start games," Ligouri said. "But we have three other pitchers (sophomore Peyton Parker of La Porte City; freshman Dana Dunbar of Chadron, Neb.; and freshman Ally Anderson of Atlantic) who pitched over 50 innings each for us this year so we'll go as deep as we have to. That's the bottom line."
Offensively, sophomore Mia Ruther leads the Bears with a .599 batting average and six other players batted .400 or higher this season. Sophomore Kaisha Wells of Topeka, Kan., and freshman Maddie Karr of Center Point belted 11 home runs apiece and five players drove in 40 or more runs, led by Karr with 61 RBIs.
Ligouri noted that his team also stole 158 bases this season.
"We have some people who can hit the long ball, but we also have some really quick. people," Ligouri said. "We're going to play the same way we have all season. Obviously we'd like to get ahead early, but we've been behind some good teams in the past and fought back. It's one inning at a time, play the way we always have and try to keep it absolutely as simple as we can for our players."
The double-elimination tournament continues through May 25 with the championship game set for 1:30 p.m. that day. A second championship game, if necessary, would be played immediately following the first championship game.