Texas softball (32-24) is headed west for the Seattle regional to take on Big 10 champion Minnesota (39-15) this Friday. The Longhorns received the news late Sunday night during the NCAA Selection show, which announced the fate of softball teams across the country.
As Texas heads to Seattle, it will be met by the No. 5 Washington Huskies, the Golden Gophers of Minnesota and the Boise State Broncos.
“Well obviously we’re very excited,” head coach Connie Clark said. “I just used the word a minute ago… ‘opportunity.’ Our strength of schedule from day one was strong. I kept seeing the seeds that were hosting go up, and I kept saying ‘Yep, we played them, yep, we played them.’ We’ve had opportunities against a lot of them, including Washington here on our turf.”
Last year, the Longhorns enjoyed the luxury of playing their NCAA tournament games close to home, only having to travel to College Station. This year, the team is forced to travel a bit further –– about 2,000 miles further.
The team has a limited history with Boise State, as the teams have not played each other in the past five years. However, the Broncos boast two 13-game winners on their pitching staff, in addition to a lineup that contains four hitters with batting averages over .400.
Texas has matched up against both Minnesota and Washington in the last two seasons, and none of them have gone the Longhorns’ way.
Minnesota has relied on strong pitching to lead the way, specifically the pitching of sophomore Amber Fiser, who recorded an astonishing 26-9 record over the course of the season. The offense is led by sophomore Kendyl Lindaman, who hit 19 home runs over the course of the season, 14 more than the top home run hitter of the Longhorns, junior captain Bekah Alcozer.
The Huskies are the strongest team of the bunch, with impressive offensive contributors and an ace pitching staff. These factors led to Washington hanging around the top 10 rankings for the majority of the season.
“You’re excited to be in the tournament, as always, and not being one of the Top 16, you’re just excited to see where you go and get the plans together,” Clark said. “I think our team was excited to see the match-ups go up. No doubt, everyone is tough on their own turf, so Washington will be tough up there. Obviously, we have to go through a quality program in Minnesota first, but we like it.”
The 2017 season opened with two losses to a ranked Minnesota team in the season opening Texas Classic. This season, the Huskies visited Austin while being ranked No. 1 in the country, and barely escaped with a 2-1 victory over the Longhorns.
Every team in the Seattle regional, besides Texas, boasts at least 39 victories on the season.
While the Longhorns boast a strong bullpen, they’ll need an explosive offensive outing if they hope to advance past Big 10 champions.
“It’s a great opportunity and better than playing in Texas where the weather is in the 90’s,” Clark said. “We’ll try to get up there as soon as we can, with it being a long-distance trip, and settle in. Hopefully, this is when we cash in on the opportunity.”
The regional tournament takes place from May 17-20. The Longhorns face off with Minnesota at 9 p.m. ET this Friday at the University of Washington.