Must-see TV: Half of Central Region occupied by MIAA softball teams

May 10—MIAA softball is nuts.

Four of the eight teams in the Central Region tournament come from the conference that Missouri Southern State University competes in.

The top three spots, as well as No. 6, are claimed by Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association teams.

No. 1 Pittsburg State University is hosting No. 8 Southern Arkansas University (Great American Conference), No. 4 Augustana College (Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference) and No. 5 Oklahoma Baptist University (GAC).

No. 2 Rogers State University is hosting No. 3 University of Central Oklahoma (MIAA), No. 6 Washburn University (MIAA) and No. 7 Southern Nazarene University (GAC).

Had Missouri Southern been able to get hot and win its conference tournament last weekend, that would have likely removed No. 8 Southern Arkansas from the NCAA regional tournament, because teams with a conference championship get an automatic spot in the NCAA field.

"It's just a testament to how tough our conference is and how tough our region is," RSU head coach Andrea Vaughan said after last Thursday's game against MSSU. "Games like this only prepare you for the long haul."

The top three teams from the MIAA are elite-level softball. RSU, PSU and UCO all finished with 20-plus wins inside a tough conference and won more than 40 games total. PSU finished 51-6, RSU 43-10 and UCO 42-13.

Rogers State and Central Oklahoma have both won national championships in the last 11 years; RSU's came in 2022, UCO's in 2013.

There's not a doubt in my mind that all three could compete for a national championship. In the most recent rankings from the National Fastpitch Coaches Association, including all games played through May 5, Pittsburg was ranked fifth, Rogers 10th and Central 12th.

The unfortunate part is only one of those teams can make it beyond super regionals to be among the last eight teams standing for the Division II Women's College World Series.

"Those are three very, very good programs. The disappointing part is D-II is still regionalization, so they're all going to have to go to the same region and only one's going to get out of it," MSSU softball coach Hallie Blackney said.

Two of the four MIAA teams in the NCAA tournament will be eliminated after this weekend. And only one will be left standing after Super Regional weekend.

Last year, that was UCO that advanced to the WCWS.

The MIAA has had the top three seeds in the Central Region in back-to-back years now. It's not like this is something new. The only difference this year is it added a fourth team in the top eight with Washburn. That only shows the depth of this league.

Had Missouri Southern not went on a losing skid after battling the injuries this season, there could have been a fifth team. Not to play the what-if game with you, but I think it's worth mentioning. I mean, the team's record was 29-10 before dropping 12 of its last 16 games to finish 33-22.

"It's the best in Division II. It's impressive how deep this conference is," Blackney said. "Do I actually think we're a nine seed? No. That's just how the crumbs fell. It just speaks volumes. You have to be proud to be a part of this conference because it's phenomenal softball."

Don't be surprised to see an MIAA matchup in the super regionals this year. The PSU Gorillas are the favorite in their regional while the Rogers State Hillcats, UCO Bronchos and Washburn Ichabods occupy three of four spots in the other regional.

"It will probably be another MIAA matchup in super regionals, and whoever wins that will probably win nationals," she added.