KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The University of Rio Grande softball team is ranked 17th in the final NAIA coaches’ poll of the 2017 season.
The poll was released Wednesday night by the national office prior to the release of the pairings for this week’s NAIA National Tournament Opening Round.
The RedStorm, who moved up one position from the poll released two weeks ago, tallied 237 points in the balloting by a panel of head coaches representing each of the conferences and the Association of Independent Institutions.
The ranking is the highest in the program’s history.
Head coach Chris Hammond’s club sports a 45-8 record after winning the River States Conference regular season and tournament championships.
The 45 wins represents a single-season school record.
Rio Grande made its third straight national tournament appearance on Monday when it faced Olivet Nazarene (IL) University — which was among the schools receiving votes in the poll — as part of the Grand Rapids Bracket hosted by Davenport University.
The RedStorm are seeded second in the four-team pod.
Oklahoma City is the No. 1-ranked team for the 13th straight time and was a unanimous No. 1 selection with 529 total points in the balloting.
The Stars enter the national tournament with a 61-1 record and have not been beaten by an NAIA member school this season.
The 13 consecutive top rankings by the Stars is the longest for an NAIA program since former member Concordia (Calif.) went 18-consecutive weeks at No. 1 that spanned the 2013-14 seasons.
No. 2 Brenau (Ga.) maintained its position, tallied 509 points and moves up one position from the last poll.
The Tigers are 52-5.
Columbia (Mo.) collected 494 total points to remain at No. 3, while No. 4 Marian (Ind.) and No. 5 Georgia Gwinnett both hold their spots from the third regular-season edition.
There were no newcomers to this week’s poll.
Overall, 18 of the 19 conferences are represented in this edition.
The Southern States Athletic Conference has the most schools represented with three.
A final Top 25 poll will be released at the conclusion of the NAIA World Series.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director for The University of Rio Grande