Softball postseason is almost upon us, with the first regional games getting underway Monday. (For my softball regional preview column, click here.)
That means this will be the final regular-season installment of the Topp’s Tips Area Softball Power Rankings.
Once the postseason ends, I’ll give a breakdown of my final rankings.
Here’s how the rankings look as we approach the final weekend of the regular season:
1. Quincy Notre Dame (24-2) — Last week’s ranking: No. 1
The Lady Raiders have held this No. 1 spot all season long, and they really seem poised to capture a regional and maybe make some noise in the sectional.
QND’s Danielle Sanders and Kelsey Ley passed alumna Caren Kemner as the program’s all-time hits leader on Tuesday, and Ley and Sanders will continue to battle it out the rest of the way for the top spot on the leaderboard. Those two, plus the likes of Tori Kuhn, Kassidy and Kristen Gengenbacher, Arianna Rigg and others give QND the area’s most dangerous offense. Also, Aubrey Wilson seems to be hitting her peak in the pitcher’s circle.
QND is on a nine-game winning streak, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that streak hits 14 entering regional play, when the Lady Raiders will meet No. 4 West Hancock or No. 5 Pittsfield in the semifinal of the Class 2A Pittsfield Regional.
2. Payson Seymour (21-7) — Last week’s ranking: No. 3
It’s a tough call whether to go with Griggsville-Perry or the Lady Indians in this slot, but I’ll give the nod to Payson in light of its 5-2 win over Griggsville on Monday. With the win, Payson split its season series with the Lady Tornadoes and earned a share of the West Central Conference South Division title with Griggsville.
Payson has won 11 of its last 12 and continues to get consistently solid pitching from junior Cheyanne Bowman. She hasn’t allowed more than four runs in a game since April 2 and has allowed five or more runs just three times all season.
With Bowman in the pitcher’s circle and hitters like Dakota Flesner and Kristen Loos at the top of the lineup, it’s no mystery why Payson is favored to win its Class 1A regional.
3. Griggsville-Perry (24-8) — Last week’s ranking: No. 2
The Lady Tornadoes have suffered a pair of losses since the last rankings came out, but a 5-2 defeat to Payson and a 5-4 loss to Hardin Calhoun in extra innings isn’t a huge reason for concern. Like Payson and Griggsville, Calhoun is a No. 1 seed in its regional.
When the offense produces, Griggsville is still an extremely difficult team to beat, because the Lady Tornadoes’ defense and pitcher McKenzie Vose almost always do a good job of limiting the opponents’ offensive output.
4. Liberty (16-12) — Last week’s ranking: No. 4
The Lady Eagles are not a team you’d want to run into during the postseason.
Liberty is riding a six-game winning streak, and during that span, it has outscored its opponents 62-16.
Season splits with Payson and Griggsville prove the Lady Eagles could be a dangerous team in the postseason. They’ve been inconsistent at times but seem to be hitting their peak right now.
5. Illini West (14-13) — Last week’s ranking: No. 5
Conference play hasn’t been kind to the Chargers. They were swept in a West Central Conference North Division doubleheader Monday against Sherrard and then again Tuesday against Taylor Ridge Rockridge.
Still, Sherrard is a team that could challenge for the Class 2A state title, and Rockridge is a quality squad itself, so those losses don’t totally negate Illini West’s body of work.
Nonetheless, Illini West will need a better effort in its regional semifinal game next week against Central-Southeastern — a team that has underachieved this season but has a roster full of players who have experienced postseason success.
Last week’s power rankings: No. 1 QND, No. 2 Griggsville-Perry, No. 3 Payson Seymour, No. 4 Liberty, No. 5 Illini West