The college softball postseason is here, and the NCAA tournament begins Friday with regionals.
Oklahoma enters the postseason as the tournament's No. 1 overall seed with a 51-1 record, riding a dominant 43-game winning streak into the Norman Regional. But 63 other teams are trying to prevent the Sooners from three-peating at the Women's College World Series.
Alabama earned the No. 5 overall seed, but the status of star pitcher Montana Fouts is unclear after the nation's strikeout leader left an SEC tournament game against Arkansas with an apparent leg injury.
Duke will host an NCAA regional for the second time in program history, as the Blue Devils earned the No. 8 seed in the NCAA tournament. They won 17 of their last 19 games entering the tournament, no-hitting Clemson in the ACC tournament semifinals.
Since starting the season 37-1, Clemson has struggled, going 9-8 over its past 17 games. But while the Tigers still earned the No. 16 overall seed, they'll have their work cut out for them, as their regional also features an Auburn team that has the second-most shutouts in the country (22).
Key game last week: Utah 7, UCLA 4. Though the Utes were swept by the Bruins and outscored 24-4 in late April, they exacted revenge in the Pac-12 championship game. Hailee White's pinch-hit RBI double in the sixth inning broke a 4-4 tie, and Halle Morris hit a pinch-hit two-run home run as the exclamation mark as Utah won the conference title and earned the No. 15 overall seed in the process. If both teams survive their regionals, they would meet in the super regionals.
Marquee game to watch: Ole Miss vs. Baylor (Friday, 1 p.m. ET, ESPNU). The only SEC team to not make the NCAA tournament was Mississippi State, which shows how much of a gauntlet that conference schedule is. Will the gritty Rebels be able to beat Baylor, the only team to beat Oklahoma this year? The Bears swept Texas to end the regular season but were blown out by Iowa State in the Big 12 tournament. Which team will show up?
Player to watch: Kathryn Sandercock, Florida State. This will be the last chance for Sandercock to make a postseason run with the Seminoles after an illustrious career. She helped the Noles win the ACC tournament and will leave Tallahassee as one of four players in program history to win at least 100 games.
Play of the week: McNeese won the Southland Conference for the third straight season and will play in the NCAA tournament for the sixth time since 2016. The Cowgirls won the conference's automatic bid on the strength of Reese Reyna's eighth-inning walk-off home run.
REESE REYNA HIT A WALK-OFF HOME RUN TO TAKE HOME THE SOUTHLAND CONFERENCE TITLE 🏆@McNeeseSoftball | #ThatsaW pic.twitter.com/kCzOM0J0hk— espnW (@espnW) May 13, 2023
Here are the schools ranked in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 poll (games as of May 14):
1. Oklahoma, 51-1 (25 first-place votes)
2. UCLA, 52-5
3. Florida State, 50-8
4. Tennessee, 44-8
5. Washington, 38-12
6. Stanford, 40-13
7. Duke, 45-10
8. Texas, 42-13-1
9. Oklahoma State, 41-14
10. Clemson, 46-9
11. Alabama, 40-18
12. Georgia, 39-13
13. Arkansas, 38-17
14. Utah, 37-13
15. LSU, 40-15
16. Northwestern, 38-11
17. Auburn, 40-17
18. Baylor, 39-16
19. Oregon, 35-15
20. Florida, 36-20
21. Wichita State, 43-10
22. Louisiana, 46-13
23. Virginia Tech, 37-18
24. Central Arkansas, 44-10
25. Texas A&M, 33-19