Four NCAA Div. III championships
PELLA—The Central College softball team improved its standing one spot to No. 5 in the most recent National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Division III rankings despite being more than two weeks from opening day.
It improves on Central’s highest preseason ranking (No. 6) in more than 10 years. The Dutch were No. 7 in the final 2013 poll after finishing in a tie for seventh at the NCAA Division III national finals in Oshkosh, Wis. Central made its 25th NCAA playoff appearance last year, capturing the eight-team NCAA Pella Regional title and advancing to its 13th national finals. The Dutch were 32-10 overall, including 12-2 in the Iowa Conference, en route to a share of their 11th league crown.
Defending champion Tufts (Mass.) remained the unanimous top pick, followed by Montclair State (N.J.), Salisbury (Md.) and Cortland State (N.Y.). The only team in the top five that has opened its season is Salisbury, which is 4-0. No. 6 Texas-Tyler, which Central leapfrogged in the rankings, is 9-0. All were also national finalists last year, along with league foe Luther, which is ranked two spots behind Central at No. 7.
East Texas Baptist, Virginia Wesleyan and Trine (Ind.) filled out the top 10. Another traditional conference contender, Coe, is ranked No. 21.
Central opens the season at the Tucson Invitational Games March 14-22 in Tucson, Ariz.