The Crowder Lady Roughriders and the Indian Hills Lady Warriors played for the right to go to the national tournament two seasons ago.
Crowder and Indian Hills are back at it again with their best-of-three series beginning Friday afternoon in Ottumwa, Iowa.
Crowder enters with a 54-3 overall record — three straight 50-win seasons for the Lady ‘Riders — and Indian Hills stands at 38-16 overall with a 21-game winning streak.
Crowder and Indian Hills are ranked No. 9 and No. 18 in the final NJCAA Division I poll.
Crowder looks for its first national tournament appearance since 2012.
— Crowder ranks second in the nation in team ERA at 1.24 with 58 earned runs over 367 innings. Wallace-Dothan leads the nation at 1.11.
The Lady ‘Riders also rank second in the nation in strikeouts per seven innings at 8.04, trailing only Pensacola State at 8.54. Crowder’s recorded 403 strikeouts overall.
Crowder’s leaders in the arms race have been freshman Bailey Buffington and sophomore Maddy Prough, who have combined for 44 victories.
Buffington stands at 22-2 overall with one save, a 1.39 ERA, and 182 strikeouts and 21 walks over 146 innings.
Prough owns a 22-0 record with two saves, a 0.93 ERA, and 141 strikeouts and 27 walks over 135 innings. She earned two victories at the Region 16 tournament last weekend, including the championship game against arch rival Jefferson.
Buffington and Prough are tied for 10th in victories, while Prough’s ranked second in ERA and Buffington 11th. Prough assisted her ERA number with an eight-inning shutout last weekend against North Central.
Offensively, Crowder ranks 10th in team batting average at .380 (604 for 1,589) and 17th in runs scored with 441.
The Lady ‘Riders benefited from the return of sophomores Lexi McClellan and Kristen Wade for the Region 16 tournament last weekend.
Leadoff hitter McClellan owns a .441 average (75-170) with 61 runs scored, nine doubles, four triples, 26 RBI, 11 walks and 21 strikeouts, and 38 stolen bases in as many attempts.
Wade hit .378 (54-143) in her first 48 games with eight doubles, three triples, four home runs, 41 RBI, 13 walks and 17 strikeouts, and five steals in as many attempts.
Kenzie Kallio and Payton Wildeman have been the two main beneficiaries of McClellan.
Kallio hit .313 (57-182) with 42 runs scored, 18 doubles, one triple, 50 RBI, 27 walks and 19 strikeouts, and five steals in as many attempts.
Wildeman hit .450 (81-180) with 61 runs scored, 19 doubles, nine triples, nine homers, 54 RBI, 11 walks and eight strikeouts, and nine steals. Wildeman’s combined 37 hits for extra bases produced a .806 slugging percentage.
Other key cogs in the Crowder machine include sophomore catcher Baylor Miles, freshman catcher Dia Jackson, freshman Marissa Smith, freshman utility Shelby Chavers, and sophomore first baseman Lexi Lowrance.
Defensively, Crowder ranks 13th in the nation with a .960 fielding percentage.
— The Lady Warriors of Indian Hills achieve their runs far differently than Crowder; for example, they have hit 62 more homers than Crowder this season with their 87 home runs.
A pair of freshmen highlight four Indian Hills with double-digit homers: Macey Harrington with a team-high 23 and Brooke Snider not far behind at 22. Chloe Olson, Alexis Westercamp, and Jaylie Reints have combined for another 34 homers (Olson 14, Westercamp 11, Reints 9).
Snider leads the team with 66 RBI and Harrington ranks second with 62.
Indian Hills ranks fourth in home runs and Harrington and Snider are fourth and fifth individually. Both players are in the top 50 in RBI.
Power’s the name of the game in pitching for Indian Hills, as well, since freshman Alexis Groet leads the nation with 273 strikeouts and ranks third with 10.43 Ks per seven innings.
Groet owns a 16-6 record with a 2.03 ERA and 57 walks over 183 2/3 innings.
Fellow freshman Nina Hendriks has won 11 more games and she pitches to contact far more than Groet with 201 fewer strikeouts over 110 1/3 innings.
Indian Hills last lost a game on April 7 when rival Iowa Western swept a twinbill from the Lady Warriors. The Lady Warriors clinched their fifth straight Iowa Community College Athletic Conference / Region 11 title last Saturday with a 4-0 win over Southeastern.
Indian Hills opened February with a 3-8 overall record, playing all games in Texas against mostly Texas schools. The Lady Warriors did not open at home until March 21.
Crowder’s three losses have all been on the road.
— Crowder and Indian Hills battled three games in 2017, with Crowder winning the first game and home team Indian Hills the next two en route to clinching a spot in St. George, Utah.
Indian Hills defeated Crowder 2-1 in 11 innings in Game 3, on a lead off home run by Kassidi Henderson.
— This season’s national tournament qualifiers already includes Temple (46-9), Chattanooga State (42-8), Central Florida (54-9), Chipola (47-5), Abraham Baldwin (41-14), and Shelton State (33-16).