If things go just right, the Alabama softball team can make it to Oklahoma City and the Women’s College World Series without having to leave Tuscaloosa for preliminaries. As expected, the Crimson Tide earned not only a bid to play in its 18th consecutive NCAA Tournament, Bama will host the Tuscaloosa Regional, and as a No. 6 seed will host a Super Regional if it can advance out of the regional.
That makes it 12 straight years Alabama softball has been selected to host an NCAA Regional.
“It never gets old,” said Alabama Coach Patrick Murphy.
No one really thought it would go any other way. Bama has played a very tough schedule and been ranked among the nation’s top five teams most of the year. The Tide has a 46-12 record.
The Tuscaloosa Regional will begin Friday at Rhoads Stadium.
Joining Alabama are Cal (32-21-1), Texas State (39-20), and Samford (40-18). Cal and Texas State will start things at 1:30 p.m. CDT Friday, followed by Alabama vs. Samford at 4. The Tide game will be televised on the SEC Network.
Alabama has played in the NCAA Tournament every season since 1999, owning an 81-39 (.675) all-time record. Alabama has won every regional round since 2005, the longest active streak in Division-I softball. This marks the 14th season that Alabama has earned a national seed, including a streak of 12 straight.
Cal, receiving votes outside the Top 25 in the latest polls, finished its season ranked fifth in the Pac 12, owning a 32-21-1 overall record and a 12-10-1 conference record. Alabama and Cal have met seven times in program history, with three of those meetings coming in the postseason. Most recently, Alabama defeated Cal, 5-2, in the 2012 Women’s College World Series en route to winning its first national title. Cal previously traveled to Tuscaloosa for the 2007 NCAA Regional, falling to the Tide, 13-1.
Texas State earned a 39-20 record this season with a 15-9 mark in Sun Belt play. The Bobcats made it to the Sun Belt Tournament game, falling to Louisiana-Lafayette. Texas State and Alabama have only met twice in program history with Alabama winning both contests at the season-opening tournament in San Marcos, Texas in 2007. Former Tide All-America Kelly Kretschman is an assistant coach with the Bobcats.
Samford, coached by former Tide player Mandy Burford, is making its first NCAA Tournament appearance after earning the Southern Conference’s automatic bid by winning its conference tournament. Alabama and Samford have met 23 times in program history with the Tide winning 21 of them. Most recently, the teams played earlier this season in Tuscaloosa with Alabama winning 10-0 on March 8.
The winner of the Tuscaloosa Regional will advance to face the winner of the Seattle Regional, hosted by No. 11 seed Washington (36-13). Other teams in Seattle include Minnesota (41-12), North Dakota State (38-18), and Weber State (37-17).
For the fourth consecutive year, the Southeastern Conference will be sending a league-record 11 teams to the tournament as the NCAA Division I Softball Committee announced its NCAA Championship bracket Sunday.
The SEC earned eight national seeds, as SEC regular season champion Florida (53-5) earned the national No. 1 seed and SEC Champion Auburn (49-9) earned the No. 4 seed. Alabama (46-12) is the No. 6 national seed, while Kentucky (43-12) is the No. 9 seed. LSU (45-15) is the No. 10 seed, and Tennessee (41-14) earned the No. 13 seed. Missouri (39-14) earned the No. 15 seed, while Georgia (40-17) rounds out the list as the No. 16 seed.
In addition, South Carolina (36-21) will compete in the Tallahassee Regional for the third consecutive year, while Ole Miss (39-20) earns its first trip to the NCAAs with a spot in the Norman Regional. Texas A&M marks its 27th NCAA appearance as the Aggies are set to play in the Lafayette Regional.
Regional play begins May 20-22, followed by the Super Regionals May 26-29. The Women’s College World Series is June 2-8 in Oklahoma City at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium - OGE Energy Field.
Since 1997, the SEC has had eight teams advance to the Women’s College World Series: Alabama (2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015), Auburn (2015), Florida (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015), Georgia (2009, 2010), Kentucky (2014), LSU (2001, 2004, 2012, 2015), South Carolina (2007) and Tennessee (2005, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015).
Only 12 schools have been crowned the NCAA Division I softball champion since the tournament started in 1982, with two SEC schools among the winners on that list. Alabama claimed the first national championship in SEC history when it downed Oklahoma, 5-4, on June 7, 2012. Florida, the two-time defending National Champion, defeated Alabama in the best-of-three series in 2014 and then became the third program in NCAA softball history to win back-to-back national titles after defeating Michigan in the 2015 WCWS Championship Series.