So how does a softball team go from nowhere to No. 2 in the nation?
Simple. Make the l-o-n-g drive to Tucson, Arizona, and win the NCAA Division II Leadoff Classic.
Not just win the Classic, go undefeated through six games and three days. Not just by winning six games, either. Three of those games have to be against No. 8 (Augustana College), No. 2 (California-San Diego) and No. 6 (Minnesota State-Mankato) in that order.
Unranked Missouri-St. Louis was next in line, followed by Gold Bracket play against Texas Woman’s University and West Texas A&M University, neither ranked in the Top 25, but both received votes.
West Texas A&M, former Lone Star Conference opponent, entered the championship game undefeated at 10-0. Several antacid pills later, the LadyStorm had a 3-2 victory and the Leadoff Classic overall championship.
Like I said, simple.
Coach Ron Faubion’s young ladies put on a show in Tucson by restoring in the bunt to its rightful place in the game.
The Storm bunted when people expected it. The Storm bunted when people did not expect it. Like the catcher and cleanup hitter putting down a sacrifice bunt with two strikes on her.
Cleanup hitters are rarely called on to bunt. The situation called for it, Southeastern’s cleanup hitter did it, the Storm brought home the trophy.
Not really true on bringing home the trophy. That will be sent along after proper engraving.
THE LATEST DIVISION II poll has Southeastern trailing only Valdosta State.
VSU is 9-1 with 14 first-place votes and 395 points. VSU was No. 1 in the preseason poll with 400 points and 16 first-place votes.
Southeastern is now No. 2 in the nation with a 14-3 record, 366 points and one first-place vote. That’s the highest Division II ranking for the LadyStorm.
Five teams dropped out of the Top 25 and Southeastern helped two of them along the way. UC-San Diego and Minnesota State-Mankato fell out of the rankings.
West Texas A&M jumped to No. 3 and Texas Woman’s made the poll at No. 14.
IF IT WASN’T NAILED down, Southeastern brought it home from Tucson.
Colbert sophomore Jacee Bennett (10-1, 2.15 ERA, 69 strikeouts) appeared in all six Classic games, starting three, winning five and picking up a save.
For that iron-woman effort, Bennett was named the initial 2013 Louisville Slugger/NFCA Division II National Pitcher of the Week, along with taking honors as the Leadoff Classic Most Valuable Pitcher.
The righthander also earned Great American Conference Pitcher of the Week honors for the second time in two selections. Jessica Simmons, a freshman speedster from Shawnee, was named the Leadoff Classic’s Most Valuable Player.
SE’s leadoff hitter, Simmons is a slap-hitter and bunter with great bat control. She leads the team with a .356 average, 59 at-bats, 16 hits, 21 runs and 14 stolen bases in 15 tries.
The failed steal attempt came in the Classic when a player clearly and illegally blocked the base when she didn’t have the ball.
WINNING THE LEADOFF Classic was a marvelous experience for the young LadyStorm.
They were able to enjoy it on the l-o-n-g bus ride back from Tucson, but now it’s just a line in the record book.
The real deal starts Friday when SE travels all the way to Ada for a twinbill with the East Central Lady Tigers. The first game is scheduled for a 1 p.m. start. Saturday’s first game is set for 11 a.m.
Ada is closer than Tucson. The Lady Tigers are 10-4 overall and No. 2 in the GAC standings, trailing the LadyStorm.
The East Central series will start a stretch of 36-consecutive GAC games. That run will be the major test of 2013.
The Storm will host Southern Arkansas in a doubleheader on March 1.