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Minnesota Softball: Gophers to Take on UCLA Bruins in College World Series Opening Round

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The #2 seed Bruins have one of the nations best players in Rachel Garcia

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Rachel Garcia and UCLA will be a tough task for Minnesota
Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Golden Gophers softball team is still celebrating the program’s first ever trip to the NCAA Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City. It is a huge step forward for the program and the entire state is behind them. They have been the darlings of all the local TV news stations, and were honored by the Minnesota Twins on Sunday. Amber Fiser threw out the first pitch before the team watched the Twins beat up on the Chicago White Sox fro a private deck in left field and even led the crowd in Take Me out to the Ball Game.

The team will leave MSP on Tuesday en route to Oklahoma City, and you can help send them off. The send-off will take place in the Athletes Village lobby and will run from 10:45-11:30 a.m. Autographs will start at 10:45 and will go to 11:10, with the team leaving at 11:30.

When they arrive in Oklahoma City, they will definitely realize that they are the new kids on the block. In fact, the eight teams competing in OKC have a combined 110 trips to the Women’s College World Series. Obviously only one of those trips is due to the Gophers. On the other hand, Minnesota opening round opponent, #2 seed UCLA Bruins is making their fifth consecutive trip and 29th overall trip to the Women’s College World Series! Bit of a difference.

The Gophers and Bruins will be the second game of the day when the Women’s College World Series begins on Thursday. #3 Washington and #6 Arizona open play in a Pac-12 showdown at 11 AM, and the Minnesota/UCLA game will follow at 1:30. Those four teams occupy one half of the eight team bracket, and also represent the three teams Minnesota will need to get through to try and play for a national championship.

The way the Women’s College World Series works is this: Two four team brackets are set up and typical double elimination rules apply. Two teams will advance from the four team brackets and will play a best-of-three series for the NCAA Championship. Thus after the Gophers and Bruins play on Thursday, Minnesota will play either Arizona or Washington in their second game. If Minnesota wins their first game, they will play Friday at 6PM. If they lose, they get Friday off and will play their next game at 11AM on Saturday. But, the losers bracket means a double header on Saturday if the Gophers can win their second game. They would need to come back and play again at 6PM that evening. The full WCWS bracket is below:

Thus, they key as ESPNW points out in their article on how each team can win the WCWS is that Minnesota NEEDS to win their first game against the Bruins and stay on the winners bracket side of the tournament. If they drop the first game to the Bruins, then their road gets insanely harder.

We will have a full preview of the Bruins on Thursday, but one player to know is Junior Rachel Garcia. Arguably the best player in the nation Garcia is 24-1 this season with a 1.01 ERA. She has four saves as well for good measure. Garcia has 253 strikeouts in 166 innings pitched this season and has an opponent batting average of .153. Oh, and she also is a huge threat at the plate too. Garcia has hit .344 this season with nine home runs and 49 RBI.

It has been a magical run for the Gophers, and it will need to be even more magical to continue past this weekend. But if we have learned anything it’s not to count this Minnesota team out anymore.