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Softball | General | 5/17/2022

Division I Playoff Preview

Jerry Miller     
Photo: Perfect Game
The regular season is over. Conference tournament champions have been crowned. It’s Regional time for the NCAA Division-I schools. Sixteen national seeds have been determined and these programs will play host to the field of 64 beginning this weekend.
 
The Power 5 conferences dominate the Regional landscape. The deep and talented SEC had 12 teams named to the tourney. The Big Ten saw a conference record-tying 10 teams named to the national field. The ACC and Pac-12 each saw six clubs get invites. The Big 12 only had three teams selected for the tournament, but each of those three can walk away from OKC in a few weeks with the championship trophy.
 
Patty Gasso’s powerful, defending national championship club at Oklahoma is the nation’s No. 1 seed. The 49-2 Sooners of the Big 12 will entertain Prairie View A&M (20-28), winners of the SWAC tourney, in addition to Big Ten entrant Minnesota and the SEC’s Texas A&M. The Gophers (26-24-1) and the Aggies (29-26) strength of schedule got these two clubs a ticket to the Norman Regional.
 
The No. 2 national seed Florida State Seminoles will play host to the Tallahassee Regional. Coach Lonni Alameda’s club posted a 52-5 record this spring and appears to be on a mission. Last season’s national runners-up will see Howard University (31-22), winners of the MEAC tournament, journey to the Florida panhandle. South Florida (44-14) out of the AAC and  the Bulldogs from Mississippi State (33-24) from the SEC will also make the trip to FSU. Although the homestanding Seminoles will be favored to win this Region, this pod will see fierce competition throughout.
 
Virgina Tech (41-7), led by Pete D’Amour and his outstanding staff, were the regular season winners of the tough ACC and will play host of the Blacksburg Regional. The No. 3 nationally seeded Hokies will see Northeast Conference champ St. Francis of Pennsylvania (37-16), along with the MAC’s Miami of Ohio (39-15-1) and the SEC’s Kentucky Wildcats pay a visit to the Tech Softball Park.
 
The national No. 4 seed, the Arkansas Razorbacks (44-9), who are the SEC regular season and conference tournament champions, will host the Fayetteville Regional at Bogle Park. Making the trip to “The Hills” will be Ivy League champ Princeton (37-15-2), the Ducks of Oregon (31-17) from the Pac-12, and a sneaky good Wichita State Shockers (33-16) club out of the AAC.
 
The tradition continues out west where Head Coach Kelly Inouye-Perez, in her 16th year at the helm in Westwood, will once again lead her alma mater into postseason play. The national No. 5 seed Bruins (43-8) will play host to WAC champion Grand Canyon (38-14), West Coast Conference tourney champ Loyola Marymount (36-15), making their first trip to the playoffs, and tournament tested Ole Miss (39-17) from the SEC.
 
Coach Pat Murphy and his traditionally tough Alabama Crimson Tide program (41-11) from the SEC will host the Tuscaloosa Regional. The national No. 6 seed will see the Mocs from Chattanooga (29-25), the Southern Conference tourney champs, the Pac-12’s Stanford Cardinal (36-19), and the Murray State Racers (40-16-1), the Ohio Valley Conference regular season and tournament champions, invade Rhoads Stadium.
 
The Stillwater Regional and Cowgirl Stadium promises to be hopping this weekend when the Big 12 tourney champion Oklahoma State Cowgirls (41-12) host Atlantic-10 champion Fordham (30-20), Conference USA tournament champion North Texas State (35-14) and Nebraska (40-14) out of the Big Ten. Coach Kenny Gajewski’s seventh seeded OSU Cowgirls are riding high after handing Oklahoma their second loss of the season this past weekend at the Big 12 conference championship.
 
Alberta B. Farrington Softball Stadium on the campus of Arizona State University will host the Tempe Regional. Coach Trish Ford’s ASU Sun Devils (39-9), the Pac-12 champs and national No. 8 seed, will see Big West regular season and conference tournament champion Cal State Fullerton (36-20), LSU (34-21) out of the rugged SEC, and Mountain West champ San Diego State (37-14) roll into the Valley.
 
The Big Ten conference regular season champs, Northwestern (40-10), will host the Evanston Regional. Co-coached by sisters Kate and Caryl Drohan, the national No. 9 seeded Wildcats will see Oakland (26-15), the Horizon League regular season and tournament champions, always tough McNeese State (38-19), the regular season and tournament champs from the Southland Conference, and the Fightin’ Irish from Notre Dame (39-10) invade Sharon J. Drysdale Field.
 
Clemson (39-15), the third ACC club to host of a Regional, will see a trio of solid programs invade McWhorter Stadium. The No. 10 nationally seeded Tigers will welcome Colonial Athletic Association tournament champion UNC-Wilmington (32-13), making their first NCAA appearance in program history. Two powerful programs with OKC experience are also part of the Clemson pod. Auburn (39-15) from the SEC and always-dangerous Louisiana-Lafayette (45-11), the Sun Belt champs, will battle for the right to advance to the Super Regionals. This could be the most competitive Regional of them all.
 
The Tennessee Volunteers (39-16), led by veteran coach Karen Weekly, will see three outstanding programs invade Sherri Parker Lee Stadium this week. The No. 11 seeded Vols will host Campbell (37-17), the Big South champs making their second straight trip to the playoffs, along with two traditionally tough teams in Oregon State (33-19) out of the Pac-12 and the Big Ten’s Ohio State Buckeyes (35-15).
 
The Durham Regional, hosted by ACC powerhouse Duke (41-8), has a shot at being one of the most entertaining and highly-contested of all the pods. Coach Marissa Young’s No. 12 seeded Blue Devils will host Maryland-Baltimore County (31-10), champs of the American East Conference, making their third straight trip to the NCAAs. Georgia (40-16) from the SEC is rock solid and can certainly make a long run. Liberty (43-16) is the regular season and tournament champs from the ASUN and is very talented and capable of beating any program at any time.
 
Anytime one of Heather Tarr’s University of Washington (35-15) teams is in the mix, excitement and competitive grit abounds. Led by Pac-12 Player of the Year Bailey Klingler, the No. 13 seeded Huskies are hosting three outstanding programs at Husky Softball Stadium this week. Lehigh (30-18-1) out of the Patriot League is gladly making the cross-country trip to the Pacific Northwest. Weber State (38-10), the Big Sky regular season and conference tourney champs, will bring their big offense to Seattle, as will the Texas Longhorns (38-17-1) out of the Big 12.
 
Four fairly evenly matched teams make up the Gainesville Regional. Coach Tim Walton’s No. 14 seeded Florida Gators (43-16) out of the SEC will welcome three solid clubs to Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. Canisius (32-16) won their 13th MAAC title this spring and brings a wealth of experience to UF. Georgia Tech (37-16) had an outstanding spring in the always-tough ACC, while Wisconsin (28-19) had a solid Big Ten regular season and appears primed for postseason success.
 
The Missouri Tigers (32-14) finished the SEC season with some momentum and look poised for a long playoff run. Coach Larissa Anderson’s No. 15 seeded Tigers will host neighbor Missouri State (27-18), the Missouri Valley tournament champs, tradition-bound Arizona (33-20) out of the Pac-12, and a solid Illinois (34-20) team out of the Big Ten.
 
American Athletic Conference regular season and conference tournament champion Central Florida (46-12) will host the Orlando Regional at the UCF Softball Complex. Coach Cindy Ball-Malone’s Knights are the national No. 16 seed and will host Villanova (32-22), the Big East tourney champs, South Dakota State (40-11), the Summit League champs, and legendary coach Carol Hutchins and the Michigan Wolverines (36-16) out of the Big Ten.
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