LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The West Liberty University softball team made history on Tuesday when the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) put the Hilltoppers at No. 24 in its annual NCAA Division II preseason poll.

    While the West Liberty softball program has been listed among teams receiving votes multiple times over the past few seasons, this marks the first time the Hilltoppers have been ranked among the nation’s Top 25 teams.

    Fresh off back-to-back Mountain East Conference Coach of the Year awards, veteran head coach Herb Minch has built the Black and Gold into a perennial Atlantic Region power. He picked up his 500th career win last spring as WLU rolled to a second straight MEC title and NCAA Division II Atlantic Region Tournament run.

    This year’s Black and Gold must replace NFCA All-America and NCAA Division II Academic All-America catcher Kat Donzella but the cupboard is far from bare for Coach Minch.

    A trio of returning first-team All-Atlantic Region selections leads a deep and talented returning core for the two-time defending MEC champs. Topping the list is NCAA Division II All-America ace Makenzie Amend, the MEC and Atlantic Region Pitcher of the Year who fired two postseason no-hitters and finished the season ranked among the Top 10 nationally in several statistical categories.

    She’s joined by fellow All-Region standouts in senior centerfielder Katie Beeman, a three-time All-MEC selection and former MEC Tournament MVP, along with hard-throwing lefty pitcher/first baseman Annie Paterson, who led the MEC in strikeouts during the regular season while swinging a potent bat in the middle of the WLU batting order.

    Perennial Top 10 power Texas-Tyler received eight first-place votes to earn the No. 1 spot in the poll, edging out 2019 national champion Augustana (S.D.). Biola (Calif.), defending national champion West Texas A&M and North Georgia rounded out the top five.

    West Liberty was one of only two Atlantic Region squads to earn a Top 25 ranking. Defending regional champion West Chester slotted in at No. 9 on Tuesday. Fellow PSAC member Kutztown (Pa.) was among teams receiving votes.

    The Hilltoppers are scheduled to open the 2022 season at home on Feb. 20 with a non-conference doubleheader against Clarion (Pa.).

SOFTBALL

2022 NFCA Division II

Preseason Top 25

January 25, 2022

                                                                               2021     2021

         Team                                               Pts         W-L    Rank

  1     UT-Tyler (8)                                   386        33-7         17

  2     Augustana (5)                               371        49-8           3

  3     Biola (3)                                         365     26-16           2

  4     West Texas A&M                         360     43-12           1

  5     North Georgia                              348        43-8           4

  6     Grand Valley State                      318     45-10           5

  7     Valdosta State                              310     38-11           6

  8     Saint Anselm                                 266        33-7           7

  9     West Chester                                248     34-16           8

10     Concordia-Irvine                          240     34-13         12

11     Minnesota State                          230     40-10         13

12     Indianapolis                                  223        46-8         11

13     Lincoln Memorial                         218        38-8         10

14     Auburn-Montgomery                 196        40-7         21

15     Oklahoma Christian                    192        38-9         14

16     Southern Arkansas                      139     29-10         18

17     West Florida                                 136     33-16         15

18     Angelo State                                 131     33-14         RV

19     Georgian Court                            130        38-6         19

20     Central Oklahoma                          77     36-14         22

21     Colorado Mesa                               75        39-5         23

22     Texas A&M-Commerce                58     33-18           9

23     Alabama-Huntsville                       44     32-14         25

24     WEST LIBERTY                                28     37-17        RV

25     Central Missouri                             22     38-14         RV

    Also receiving votes: Western Washington 20, Anderson 19, Texas A&M-Kingsville 15, Tampa 12, Rollins 7, Northwest Nazarene 6, Rogers State 6, Kutztown, 3, Adelphi 1.