Wolverines head to Washington for regionals

Sunday, May 14, 2017 - 11:36pm

The 2017 NCAA Softball Tournament selection show was held Sunday night, revealing the 64 teams that will have the opportunity to vie for a national title. The 32 conference tournament winners each received an automatic bid to the bracket, and each of the top-16 seeded teams will host a regional this upcoming weekend.

The Michigan softball team will be heading to Seattle, assigned to a regional with No. 6-seed Washington, Fresno State and Montana. This marks the Wolverines’ 23rd-straight selection to the NCAA Softball Championship.

The champion of the double-elimination Seattle Regional will battle the winner of the Salt Lake City Regional in a best-of-three Super Regional May 25-28. The winner will advance to the NCAA Women’s College World Series — held at the USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, Okla.

One of the biggest surprises of the bracket reveal came for Big Ten conference and tournament titleholder Minnesota. The Golden Gophers — currently ranked No. 2 in the nation — are unseeded in the tournament. Minnesota — who finished their regular season with a near-perfect 51-3 record and then went on to win the conference tournament — will therefore not host a regional and will instead be heading to the Tuscaloosa Regional.

As stated in the selection show, the Selection Committee didn’t believe the Golden Gophers had enough “quality wins” to warrant a seed in the tournament. Though most shocking in the case of Minnesota, this trend pertained to the Big Ten as a whole as well. Michigan, Illinois, Ohio State and Wisconsin — the other conference members who made the bracket — all are unseeded.

In comparison, eight Southeastern Conference teams are seeded, and all 13 SEC schools with a softball team were selected for the top-64 tournament. Both Minnesota and Michigan hold better overall records than at least three of the SEC’s seeded teams.

After suffering a shocking loss in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament to Michigan State, the Wolverines assumed they would not host a regional. Though travel was expected for Michigan this year, the Seattle Regional marks just the fifth time in history the Wolverines will not play at home.

Washington is likely to present the steepest competition at the regional for Michigan — the Huskies trounced Minnesota twice during the regular season.

The Wolverines will begin regional play Friday night, facing Fresno State in their first slate at Husky Softball Stadium. The game will be live on ESPN2 at 6 pm PT.