The Minnesota Golden Gophers just hours after completing their regular season found out where they will be headed in the NCAA Softball Tournament on Sunday evening. The Gophers are the #2 seed in the Los Angeles Region and will head west. Joining the Gophers in LA are the host and #2 National seed UCLA Bruins, #3 seed Fresno State, and #4 seed Long Beach State.
Minnesota completed their regular season Sunday afternoon with a meaningless loss to Penn State after winning the three previous games of the series. Minnesota completed the regular season with a 29-11 record completely in Big Ten play. The Gophers finished second in the conference behind Michigan who claimed the Big Ten’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament with no Big Ten Tournament this season. Joining the Gophers and Wolverines in the NCAA Tournament from the Big Ten is third place Northwestern as well.
The Gophers received an at large bid and will head west to Los Angeles. To keep travel costs down, the NCAA tried to assign teams to regions by geography this season, but obviously for the Gophers and other teams in the softball desert that is the Upper Midwest, that means that the Gophers will need to travel far. Joining the Gophers in Los Angeles are a trio of California teams, the #2 national seed UCLA, and Fresno State and Long Beach State.
The Gophers will open play Friday night at 7 PM on ESPNU when they play Fresno State. UCLA and Long Beach State will play after the Gophers and Bulldogs. The losers will face off in an elimination game on Saturday afternoon while the winners will play each other Saturday night.
Fresno State is the #3 regional seed going 36-10 overall and 20-4 to win the Mountain West Conference. Fresno State played five games against Pac-12 teams in the non conference losing to UCLA 7-0 in their season opener, getting swept in a pair of games by Oregon who is in the NCAA field, and splitting a pair of games with Cal who finished second to last in the conference. The Bulldogs are led by a freshman phenom in Keahilele Mattson who led the team in hitting in all the triple crown states with a .352 average 11 home runs and 37 RBI. In the circle the Gophers will most likely see the Bulldog’s ace in Hailey Dolcini. Dolcini went 21-4 this season with a 1.01 ERA, and 241 strikeouts in 166 innings pitched.
If the Gophers can get past the Bulldogs they will see a familiar non-conference foe in UCLA. The Gophers and Bruins faced off in the shortened 2020 season before it was cancelled with UCLA winning 4-0. Most notably the Gophers and Bruins met in the opener of the 2019 College World Series in Omaha with UCLA claiming a 7-2 win in that game.
Michigan is also a #2 seed and will head to Seattle to face Seattle University in the opening game. They will most likely see #16 national seed Washington in the next game. Northwestern is a #4 seed and will open play in Lexington, Kentucky against the #14 national seed Kentucky Wildcats.