‘Sky’s the Limit’ for Top-Ranked West Liberty University’s Softball Team


Image from Hilltopper Sports website

Results from the MEC North Division preseason poll have West Liberty ranked at number one.

Ahead of the 2022 season, Mountain East Conference (MEC) coaches released their annual preseason poll last Wednesday and West Liberty’s softball team was the unanimous pick for first place.

WLU’s softball team is ranked 24th in the nation, so it’s no surprise the 11 MEC coaches ranked them first for the third consecutive year. Coach Herb Minch attributes this ranking to the talent of his team. “The success of the last two seasons have established them as a premier contender in the MEC and the Atlantic region of the NCAA. That in conjunction with a talented pitching staff that returns in its entirety, this season holds us up there as the team to beat in conference,” he said.

Senior pitcher Riley Bennington said she was excited but not surprised to see this ranking. “We are incredibly excited to receive the number one ranking in the MEC. We knew coming off back-to-back championships would put a target on our back as a team. This has only motivated us to work harder and push each other to reach the next level,” Bennington said.

In the first game of the season, the Hilltoppers will face Clarion University. Both Minch and Bennington have big goals for the 2022 season. Coach Minch says the team will “Prepare the best we can mentally and physically to play the best we can every game this season,” as well as “ Win the North Division, Conference tournament, and the Atlantic Region to move onto the National Championship.”

For her fourth year at West Liberty University, Bennington wants to make this season her best yet. “Our goal is to win games and have fun doing it as a team. We are ready to go further this season by winning the region and making it to nationals in Denver, Colorado.” “My goal is to focus on one game at a time and shut down the opposing team. Our pitching staff is strong, and we plan on making a statement.”

Bennington has already made a statement in her own pitching career by pitching 11 strikeouts during a single game in April of last year. Bennington was an NFCA All-America Scholar-Athlete during the 2020-21 season. She also assisted teammate Makenzie Amend in a no-hitter in last season’s Atlantic Region Tournament. As Coach Minch said, “When you put great people – we have great student athletes – in good positions, the sky’s the limit.”

The Hilltoppers will play 55 games this season, several of which will be played at home. The team would appreciate seeing WLU students supporting in the stands. The season opener takes place on Feb. 20 at 1 p.m. on the hilltop where all students are welcome to attend.