Arizona softball earns No. 11 seed and hosting duties in the NCAA tournament
Wildcats celebrate Kelsey Rodriguez’s third inning two run homer at Hillenbrand Stadium on Thursday. The No. 9 Wildcats fell to No. 1 Oregon, 7-3, in the first of three games at Hillenbrand. However, the Wildcats will host an NCAA Regional this weekend.
The Arizona Wildcats softball team earned the No. 11 national seed Sunday in this year’s NCAA tournament and thus will host a first round regional this upcoming weekend.
The Wildcats had been hoping to earn a top eight seeding but it was not to be. After learning their fate Sunday night, Arizona is ready for the intense tournament.
“All of us girls got together to watch the selection show and kind of huddle up waiting to see where we would get seeded,” Arizona shortstop Kellie Fox said. “It was nervous and exciting, because you never know what’s going to happen in the selection show. But when are name finally got called we were also super pumped and cheering.”
This season the Wildcats (41-13, 14-10 Pac-12) finished fifth in the tortuous Pac-12 Conference and own one of the most potent offenses in country. The UA hit a NCAA leading 100 home runs.
Heading into this past weekend Arizona had been ranked No. 8 in the country but after losing two of three at home to No. 1 Oregon, the Wildcats fell out of contention of also hosting a Super Regional. The top 16 seeds host Regionals while the top eight also host Super Regionals.
“We’re just super excited to be home for the first few games,” Fox said. “We’re not worried about Super Regionals and all that yet we just have to focus on the games this weekend.”
This weekend Arizona will host Boston University (35-19, 13-5 Patriot), Louisville (36-20, 14-7 AAC) and LSU (35-21, 13-11 SEC) in the Tucson Regional. The Regionals are double elimination. The winner of the Tucson Regional will face the winner Lafayette Regional, with No. 6 seed Lousiana Lafayette if they win their Regional.
Arizona’s first opponent in the Tucson Regional is Boston U on Friday at 8 p.m. at Hillenbrand Stadium on ESPNU. ESPN will broadcast the games of the Tucson Regional on their networks.
The Wildcats have a pretty impressive all-time record against the three schools traveling to Tucson. Arizona is a combined 15-2 in its history against Boston U, Louisville and LSU. The two losses were against the LSU Tigers. The first was on May 27, 2006 in the Tucson Super Regional. The Wildcats, however, fought back and won next game and the series against the Tigers and then continued to roll to win the National Championship.
Their second loss to LSU came last season in the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic.
Arizona also played Boston U in 2013. In the two-game series against the Terriers, the Wildcats won both games by a combined score of 10-4.
“After we figured out who we were playing all of us girls immediately started looking up other players and their stats or calling friends who had played against them,” Fox said. “But we don’t really know what to expect but I know coach will have a plan probably as early as tomorrow [Monday] morning if not already.”
After opening the season 20-1, the UA finished winning only two of its final six games. Three of those games were at No. 12 seed Washington and the other three were to the Ducks who earned the No. 1 overall seed in this year’s tournament.
Lucky for the Wildcats they only lost two games all year in Tucson and both came last weekend to Oregon.
“We’re so excited to be playing at home,” Fox said. “We’re looking at the tournament as a fresh start or a new beginning, that’s how we’re looking at it. We played some tough teams down the stretch and beat them a couple times so we know we can beat the best and we’re going to build off that.”
—Follow Luke Della @LukeDella