2016 Softball District Tournament Preview

By Matt Turer — mturer@ky3.com

@MattTurer

With teams from the region competing in this week’s district tournaments, it’s time for a little preview of what to look for over the coming days. I couldn’t get to a deep dive on every team, so instead this is formatted into district championship predictions, a sleeper team to watch for, and commentary within each district analysis of other programs in that district.

Stay tuned for your usual Wednesday power rankings!

Click for Sept. 28 Power Rankings

Class 4

Class 4— District 12
Predicted championship matchup: #1 Republic (19-6) vs. #2 McDonald County (17-5)
The Tigers were undefeated in games against the other five teams in this district, beating McDonald County, Neosho, Carthage and Webb City. Carthage and Webb City gave the Tigers a fight, losing 3-1 and 3-0, respectively. The 7-2 win over 2-seed McDonald County is the most telling. Ultimately, the combo of Rachel Rook (1.25 ERA, 240 Ks) and a Kami Holt led lineup that has 55 extra-base hits (19 home runs) makes Republic the undisputed favorite in District 12.

The only team McDonald County lost to in this group? Republic. The Tigers put up five runs in the second inning in that one. The Mustangs pulled within 5-2 and held that score until the seventh when Republic scored two insurance runs in a 7-2 win. This has been a good team all year, playing Blue Springs South (20-2) to a 3-1 loss and having zero so-called head-scratching losses on the resumè.

Sleeper potential: #3 Webb City (15-10)
The Cardinals have some quality wins this season over Branson, Ozark, Willard and Nixa and put up fights in losses to Monett, Republic and McDonald County. This is a program with a ton of pride. They should get past Joplin in Round 1 for a shot at McDonald County in the semis, a team they lost to 3-1 this year.

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Class 4 — District 11
Predicted championship matchup: #1 Ozark (22-6) vs. #2 Kickapoo (16-9)
I think Kickapoo getting what will likely end up being Nixa is going to be what gets them to the title against Ozark. The Chiefs have flown under the radar for much of this season but won every game against district opponents not named Ozark. Nixa has put up a nice late-season push that includes a third-place finish in the CrackerJack Shack Springfield Invitational, but the Chiefs are a better team and should get by them in the semis. Ozark faced Kickapoo once this year, winning 9-2. Ozark goes into this having won nine of 10 and has played a very tough schedule.

Sleeper potential: #4 Branson (15-10)
The separation between Branson, Nixa and Kickapoo really isn’t too wide. If Katrina Ford, Gracie Jaeger and Co. can put up a couple games they’ve proven capable of putting up, an upset of Ozark isn’t completely out of the questions. (Lost to Ozark 8-5 on Sept. 8).

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Class 4 — District 10
Predicted championship matchup: #1 Camdenton vs. #2 Willard
It’s all about pitching for Willard. The Tigers have allowed two or fewer runs in seven of 14 games since Sept. 20. Over that stretch, they’re 11-3 and have outscored opponents 79-20 (1.4 runs allowed per game). They have Bridget Rippe to thank for those microscopic runs allowed totals. Rippe will face her toughest test yet in a Camdenton lineup that is batting .413 with a 1.060 OPS as a team. What’s scary is the Lakers are just as impressive on the mound with three pitchers delivering ERAs between 1.56 and 1.86, and two of those three having WHIPs below 0.90.

Sleeper potential: #3 Waynesville (13-13)
Waynesville has struggled to find consistency on the mound this season but they do have some strength at the plate, scoring 10+ runs seven times this season.

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Class 3 Previews

Class 3 — District 12
Predicted championship matchup: #1 Monett (17-8) vs. #2 Cassville (14-8)
This could be one of the best district title games we see and it’s maybe the one I’m looking forward to the most. Monett beat Cassville 11-1 early in the season, but the Cassville team then is very different than the one we see now. The Wildcats put up big wins over Republic and West Plains in the Springfield Invitational and are riding the bat of Lauren Turner and the arm of Josie Lone. Turner has hit two grand slams in the past two weeks alone. Monett has one of the deepest lineups in Class 3 (.374 team avg.) and has taken advantage of good pitching by Haley Williams over the second half of the season. The Wildcats will likely get a good East Newton team in the semis that they beat 5-0 this season. Monett will likely get a sneaky Aurora team that it only beat 3-2 this year.

Sleeper potential: #4 Aurora (9-15)
Like I said above, Aurora is sneaky! The Lady ‘Houns have close losses to Monett, West Plains and Cassville and actually led the Cubs 2-1 in the bottom of the sixth before eventually falling, 3-2. If they can get by Nevada, they’re a team Monett can’t ignore.

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Class 3 — District 11
Predicted championship match: #1 West Plains (20-6) vs. #2 Rogersville (17-8)
Two more Class 3 teams in the Top 10 of my power rankings should face off in this title game. West Plains is playing so well right now behind Abbey Gann (20-4, 143.0 innings, 207 strikeouts, 1.32 ERA, 0.97 WHIP) and their lineup has a ridiculous 54 doubles this season. They should get by the winner of Hillcrest vs. Hollister and Rogersville should be able to top a good Reeds Springs team that they beat 12-4 this season. The Zizzers and Wildcats split two games this year, with Rogersville winning the first, 3-1, and West Plains the second, 8-3.

Sleeper potential: #3 Reeds Spring (12-12)
This is a team that has one of the stronger 1-4 batters in Class 3 and was in my initial softball power rankings back on Sept. 6. The season hasn’t gone quite as expected, but the Wolves aren’t a team you can ignore

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Class 3 — District 10
Predicted championship matchup: #1 Osage (15-5) vs. #2 Eldon (10-16)
Here’s the thing, this is an incredibly crowded and confusing district. Osage is the ONLY program in this group over .500, and I guess you could argue Eldon has played a tough schedule, but their semifinal game with 3-seed Marshfield is really a toss-up. To be honest, I’m a little curious why Bolivar, even with a 5-17 record, had no look as a 3-seed here seeing as they beat Marshfield twice, 10-5 and 11-1.

Sleeper potential: #5 Buffalo
Why not Buffalo? The Bison played a pretty close game with Osage, falling 6-2 on the road on Sept. 12. They play 4-seed Bolivar in what amounts to a play-in game to the semifinals and have split with the Liberators this season, losing 17-6 on Sept. 6 and winning 9-7 on Oct. 1. Beyond that, the Bison beat Marshfield in their only matchup this year. It could happen!

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Class 3 — District 9

Predicted championship matchup: #1 Helias Catholic (18-7) vs. #2 Southern Boone (13-6)

These two seem to be the pretty clear Top 2 here. I’m going to limit the analysis on them since neither is in the coverage area and neither has faced our only team in this district that is, Salem.

Sleeper potential: #4 Salem (20-4)

Here’s our area representative in this district! Salem had another impressive season that ended with its fifth consecutive district title. This team can put up runs in bunches, scoring 10+ runs 14 times this season. However, their schedule up to the final couple weeks of the season wasn’t overly challenging, making them hard to judge. But this is a team and a lineup with a lot of pride and experience, and they’re more than capable of making a run in this tournament.

Class 2 Previews

Class 2 — District 12
Predicted championship matchup: #1 Pleasant Hope (15-10) vs. #2 El Dorado Springs (12-8)
Pleasant Hope has played one of the toughest Class 2 schedules I’ve seen this season and should be the favorite in this district, even with as promising a season that has taken place in ElDo. The Pirates really only have one notable higher-class win (8-2 over Nixa), but they’ve seen top programs like Camdenton, Willard, Jeff City, Branson, Kickapoo, Rogersville and Republic. (And they were competitive in a couple of those). That kind of schedule will do wonders in the district tournament. ElDo hasn’t played that same schedule but has been very consistent against good Class 2 and Class 1 competition, something that has earned them a spot in the power rankings all year.

Sleeper potential: #3 Seneca (12-12)
Seneca isn’t in our softball coverage area so I haven’t seen too much of them this year, but they should have a pretty good shot at upsetting ElDo if they play the type of game that they have against teams like Monett, McDonald County, Aurora and Neosho.

Click here for full bracket

 

Class 2 — District 11
Predicted championship matchup: #1 Dixon (15-4) vs. #2 Iberia (12-10)
This should be Dixon’s district to lose. The Bulldogs have been great this year against good Class 2 and Class 1 teams and beat Iberia on the road, 3-0. (They’re perfect against Class 2 foes). Dixon saw Camdenton this week, losing, 9-0. Despite the loss, I’m a big believer of what playing top higher-class competition can do for a team come tournament time. That loss will be good for them.

Sleeper potential: #3 Cuba (11-9)
This is another district where I really don’t see a sleeper. Cuba lost its final four games of the season, something not good for any psyche going into a tournament, but they’ve played above .500 all season and are probably pretty similar talent-wise to Iberia.

 

Class 2 — District 2
Predicted championship matchup: #1 East Carter (11-6) vs. #2 Willow Springs (17-6)
East Carter is the top seed here due to a tougher schedule, but these two faced off at East Carter way back on Aug. 23 with the Redbirds winning, 1-0. If Willow can get by 3-seed Doniphan, this should be another pitcher’s duel for the district title. The Bears have one of the better Class 2 rotations you’re going to find, at least by the numbers. Senior Sydney Miller has a 1.65 ERA, 0.87 WHIP and 139 strikeouts in 89.1 innings. Sophomore Kirstien Loman has a 0.91 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 55 strikeouts in 53.2 innings. The only question for Willow is if they can produce enough runs with a team average sitting at .301.

Sleeper potential: #4 MV-BT/Liberty (10-11)
I really don’t know if I see a true sleeper here, but Liberty has been a pretty good Class 2 team this year. They face Alton in opening round play, a team they’re 3-0 against. If they beat Alton for a fourth time, they’ll get an East Carter team that they haven’t seen all year. You never know!

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Class 2 — District 1
Predicted championship matchup: #4 Hartville (9-12) vs. #5 Mansfield (10-7)
I guess my sleepers here will end up being the #1 and #2 seeds (Houston and Ava), because I’m on board with Hartville and Mansfield making runs in this district. Hartville gets Gainesville in the opening round—a team they beat 17-1—and Mansfield gets Seymour—a team they beat 12-1. There’s a little less separation for Mansfield and 2-seed Ava in the semis, but the Lady Lions handled the Bears, 10-5, this year. On the other end, Hartville gets 1-seed Houston, a team it beat 10-0 on Sept. 20. Obviously, one game a season does not make, but these are pretty decisive scores, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see these upsets.

Sleeper potential: #1 Houston (8-11)
Houston topped Ava, 4-2, a couple weeks back. I really liked Houston as a Team to Watch before the season began, so the potential is there for both them and Ava to live up to their seeds and hopefully prove me wrong!

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Class 1 Previews

Class 1 — District 4
Predicted championship matchup: #1 Weaubleau (14-7) vs. #2 Hermitage (14-8)
This is a fun bracket! Weaubleau snuck its way into last week’s power rankings thanks to an impressive second-half push and Hermitage has spent two weeks in those same rankings this year. Weaubleau will most likely face #4 Humansville in the semifinals and has split vs. them this year, winning, 9-2, on Aug. 27 and losing, 16-6, on Sept. 6. Humansville hasn’t seen Weaubleau since its midseason swing, but the Tigers can’t look past that game. On the other end, Hermitage has a tough semifinals game with 3-seed Wheatland. The Mules (12-11) have been a pretty solid group this season and beat Hermitage, 6-5, on Sept. 12. Hermitage, however, has two wins over Wheatland.

Sleeper potential: #4 Humansville (7-11)
I like Humansville as a sleeper purely on their confidence going into this tournament. Yeah, it’s perceived confidence on my end, but they should have it. Like I said above, Humansville split with 1-seed Weaubleau, but beyond that, the Lady Tigers have a win over Hermitage, 9-8, back in August.

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Class 1 — District 3
Predicted championship matchup: #1 Marion C. Early (13-7) vs. #2 Walnut Grove (10-14)
MCE, aka Morrisville, has been one of the better Class 1 teams in the region all season. If this is the final’s matchup, they’ll be the favorite with a 2-0 record vs. Walnut Grove this season. I don’t expect them to have an issue with the winner of Fair Play vs. Dadeville, as they’ve blown out both this season. Walnut Grove has been a pretty tough team despite its record. Both of Morrisville’s wins over them came in one-run games. Grove’s participation in the Springfield Invitational will also be good for them in this tournament thanks to seeing teams like Republic, Rogersville and Holt.

Sleeper potential: #3 Halfway (10-8)
Halfway only fell to Walnut Grove by one run, 7-6, in their one game this season, meaning the semifinals matchup could be a bit of a toss-up. The Cardinals lost to Morrisville, 9-5, but they have a pair of wins over Weaubleau and will be a tough out.

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Class 1 — District 2
Predict championship matchup: #1 Norwood (16-5) vs. #2 Dora (16-10)
My top Class 1 team against one of the hottest Class 1 teams in the region. Well, that’s what I’m thinking at least. Norwood will face the winner of Newburg and Stoutland in the semis and hasn’t faced either this year. Dora gets the winner of Crocker and Laquey and, yes, hasn’t faced either this year. Even without that direct measuring stick, I don’t expect Norwood or Dora to fall before the finals. Norwood and Dora haven’t faced each other either, but there are some mutual games in there that push the on-paper advantage Norwood’s way. If Emily Chadwell continues to pitch as she has, the Pirates can make a lot of noise in District 2 and beyond.

Sleeper potential: #3 Crocker (11-6)
I really don’t think anyone is going to challenge Norwood or Dora in the semifinals, but Crocker has had a pretty good season and with momentum from a win over Laquey on Wednesday, you never know.

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