The #20/25 Minnesota Golden Gophers softball team will kick off the Seattle Regional of the NCAA Tournament Friday night against the Texas Longhorns. The Gophers are unofficially the #2 seed in the four team regional and will take on #3 Texas in the first game of the double elimination format. The #1 seed and host Washington Huskies will play Boise State in the late game Friday night.
Minnesota is making its sixth consecutive NCAA Tournament trip and will look to make it out of the regional and back to the Super Regional for the first time since 2014. It will nto be an easy task as once again the Gophers have been dealt a rough regional path. Like a year ago when the Gophers thought they should have hosted a regional and were sent to Alabama, this year the Seattle regional is one of the toughest in the nation. The Seattle Regional is the second highest ranked regional of the sixteen in the tournament by average team RPI. Washington is the national #5 overall seed while the Gophers have an RPI of 23 and Texas is 36th. This will not be an easy weekend for the Gophers.
Minnesota will need to get better pitching from their ace Amber Fiser than they got in the Big Ten Tournament. Fiser was pulled early in two of the Gophers three games last weekend, and while Sydney Smith came in and did a fine job in relief, they will be facing significantly stronger competition this weekend. If Minnesota can’t bring it pitchingwise, it would be a quick exit. Minnesota has the second best team ERA in the regional at 1.89. Washington is third in the nation with a 1.15 team ERA. On offense, the Gophers aaverage 5.9 runs per game—but that is only good enough for third in the regional. Boise State averages a whopping 6.96 runs per game and the Huskies average 6.15.
The Gophers have had success against Texas and Boise State in the pas—but not so much against Washington. Minnesota is 2-0 all time against the Longhorns with both wins coming in February of 2017 in Austin. The Gophers are 4-1 against the Broncos with the most recent game being a Gopher win in Tempe, Arizona in 2015. But, the Gophers are just 1-8 all time against the Huskies. Minnesota was run-ruled 9-0 against Washington in Seattle in 2017. The Huskies defeated Minnesota twice in the Seattle Regional in 2016 and eliminated them from the NCAA Tournament. The Gophers lone win came in a tournament in Las Vegas in February of 2015.
In 2018 the Gophers have a record of 5-0 against common opponents with Texas, while the Longhorns went 2-4 against Wisconsin, Arizona, and Colorado State.
Minnesota has a record of 7-4 against common opponents with Boise State while the Broncos went 11-6.
Minnesota has a record of 14-10 against common opponents with Washington while the Huskies went 17-5.
Texas Longhorns Preview:
Texas finished fourth in the Big 12 and has an overall record of 32-24. The Longhorns will most likely start Paige von Sprecken in the circle against the Gophers. She has an 11-11 record on the season with a 1.93 ERA and 98 strikeouts. Texas’s other starter is Brooke Bollinger who is 13-7 with a 2.24 ERA and 118 strikeouts. Offensively Texas is led by Janee Jefferson who is hitting .404 with 11 doubles, 24 RBI and 11 stolen bases on the season. von Sprecken is also a threat at the plate hitting .316 and leading the team with 29 RBI.
Texas is a very beatable team if the Gophers are playing up to their capabilities.
Boise State Broncos Preview:
Boise State is making their first even NCAA Tournament appearance after winning the Mountain West Conference. They have a 40-14 overall record. Boise State has two starters who have nearly equally split the season. Kelsey Broadus will most likely start against Washington. She has a 14-6 record with a 2.14 ERA and 131 strikeouts on the season. Gianna Mancha is 13-4 on the season with a 3.13 ERA and 101 strikeouts. On offense the Broncos have four batters hitting over .400 led by Allsion Seng at .444. She has 39 runs scored and 36 RBI on the season. Rebekah Cervantes is hitting .439 and leads the team with 51 RBI and a.682 slugging percentage.
Washington Huskies Preview:
Washington finished 44-8 on the season and finished fourth in the Pac-12. Yes, they finished fourth in their conference and are the #5 overall national seed. The Huskies have a tough one-two punch in the circle of Taran Alvelo and Gabbie Plain. Alvelo is 21-4 with a 1.14 ERA and 219 strikeouts in 169 innings on the season. Plain is 16-4 with a 1.11 ERA and 145 strikeouts in 120 innings on the season. When you add in bullpen star Samantha Manti who is 6-0 with a 1.57 ERA out of the pen, and you can see why the Huskies are one of the best pitching teams in the country. On offense they are led by shortstop Sis Bates who is hitting .400 with 14 doubles, three triples and 5 home runs on the season. First baseman Kirstyn Thomas leads the Huskies with 50 RBIs on the season and left fielder Julia DePonte addd 14 home runs to the lineup. The Huskies are stacked and the strong favorite to advance.
The Gophers and Longhorns will faceoff beginning at 8PM CT on ESPN. You can stream the game via Watch ESPN HERE. Eric Collins and Michelle Smith will have the call for ESPN. The remaining games in the regional will all air on the ESPN family of networks. If Minnesota wins their first game they will play at 4PM on Saturday. A loss and they play at 6:30. The full schedule of the regional is below.
Friday, May 18
8 p.m. CT Texas vs. #25/20 MINNESOTA – ESPN
10:30 p.m. CT Boise State at #5 Washington – ESPNU
Saturday, May 19
4 p.m. CT Game No. 3 (Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2)
6:30 p.m. CT Game No. 4 (Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2)
9 p.m. CT Game No. 5 (Winner Game 4 vs. Loser Game 3)
Sunday, May 20
6 p.m. CT Game No. 6 (Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 5)
8:30 p.m. CT Game No. 7 (rematch of Game 6 - if necessary)