SOFTBALL: Gators to host NCAA Regional

The University of Florida Softball team (41-21) earned the No. 13 seed in the 2005 NCAA Tournament, the national office announced Sunday evening. Florida will face Bethune-Cookman (47-17), winner of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, on Friday at a time yet to be determined, in Gainesville.

"We are glad to be at home," said Florida head Coach Karen Johns. "We are pleased to receive the No. 13 seed in the tournament. We have to prepare for some tough instate opponents in the upcoming week. I'm anxious to start watching film."

The NCAA has altered the tournament format to a regional, super regional format like the NCAA baseball championships. A four-team, six-game double elimination format regional will be played between the host Gators (41-21), Bethune-Cookman (47-17), South Florida (40-25) and UCF (41-26-1) at the Florida Softball Stadium May 20-22. A complete listing of games follows, but times for all the games will be set Monday. The winner of the regional will play the winner of the Region Four tournament in Austin, Texas in a three-game super regional on May 27-28. That regional features host No. 4 seeded Texas (42-11), Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (41-9), Massachusetts (37-14-1) and Mississippi State (33-29).

This marks Florida's third consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament and the seventh in the nine-year history of the program. This is also the second time in three years the Gators have been selected to host regional play.

Florida has faced all three of the teams in the regional already this season. The Gators defeated UCF 6-1 to take the Clearwater Invitational title on February 6. Florida suffered its first shutout of the season to Bethune-Cookman, 5-0, in Daytona on Feb. 22. The Gators are 2-1 against South Florida this year with wins in both Gainesville, 7-5, and Tampa, 6-5 in nine innings, and a loss in Tampa, 5-2.

Florida is just one of six Southeastern Conference teams to receive an NCAA Tournament berth. Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Auburn will all host regional action at their home fields, while Mississippi State will travel to Texas. Georgia is the tournament's No. 10 seed, Tennessee is No. 11 and Alabama is No. 12.

"I am happy for all the other SEC teams," Johns said. "It says a lot for our conference to have five teams hosting NCAA play. It is great for Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Auburn to get to stay home and play. We are also very excited for Mississippi State to be in the tournament."

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