URG softball cracks Top 25 for first time

By Randy Payton - For Ohio Valley Publishing

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For the first time in program history, the University of Rio Grande softball team finds itself ranked among the top 25 teams in the country.

The RedStorm are ranked 24th in the latest NAIA coaches’ poll released Tuesday evening by the national office.

Head coach Chris Hammond’s team, which narrowly missed making the list last week, tallied 121 points in the balloting by a panel of head coaches representing each of the conferences and the Association of Independent Institutions.

Rio Grande, which had a scheduled Tuesday home date against the University of Pikeville cancelled by the Bears, are 32-7 overall and 15-1 in the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The RedStorm have won 10 straight outings and 14 of their last 15 heading into Friday’s KIAC twinbill against West Virginia University-Tech.

Indiana University-Southeast, which currently sits one game in back of Rio Grande in the KIAC standings at 13-1 in league play, received three points in the balloting and was among the others receiving votes for the second straight week.

Oklahoma City is the No. 1-ranked team for the third-straight week and for the 31st time in school history after tallying 529 total points and 18 first-place votes. The Stars have accumulated the most wins in the NAIA this year (48) and own the best win percentage (.980).

Defending national champion Auburn Montgomery (Ala.) moved up one spot this week to No. 2 with 502 points. The Warhawks acquired the final first-place vote, while St. Gregory’s was pushed down to the third position.

No. 4 Campbellsville (Ky.), currently on a 28-game win streak, is in the top five for the fifth time in the last six editions, while Saint Xavier (Ill.) captured the No. 5 slot for the second-straight week.

A week removed from the largest drop within the Top 25, No. 19 Oregon Tech enjoyed the biggest improvement. The Hustlin’ Owls are up five spots after 6-1 record in their last seven games. No. 25 Grand View (Iowa) tumbled down the farthest this week, sliding south six positions.

In addition to Rio Grande, the newcomers to this week’s poll included No. 21 Central Methodist (Mo.) and No. 23 Lindenwood-Belleville (Ill.). Both Central Methodist and the Lynx were recognized earlier this year in the Top 25.

Eighteen of 19 conferences are represented in the poll this week. The Southern States Athletic Conference leads all leagues with three schools represented: Auburn Montgomery, No. 8 William Carey and No. 13 Martin Methodist (Tenn.). Overall, six conferences send multiple schools into the Top 25.

Through six polls this year (including Preseason), there have been 39 different ranked teams.

Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.

By Randy Payton

For Ohio Valley Publishing