Gopher softball earns No. 7 overall seed in NCAAs

For the first time in five years, the University of Minnesota softball team is hosting an NCAA Tournament regional.

The 64 teams for this year’s tournament were revealed Sunday night on ESPN, and the Gophers were awarded the No. 7 overall seed. It guarantees the Gophers host a regional next weekend, and they would host a Super Regional if they advance.

Minnesota (41-12) will host North Dakota State (42-14) in the nightcap Friday at about 8:30 p.m. at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium. In the early game Friday, Drake (42-14) faces Georgia. The regionals are double-elimination.

Minnesota players and coaches gathered Sunday night for a watch party at Buffalo Wild Wings on campus, and they erupted when they saw the seeding. Players talked before the Big Ten Tournament of their desire to host a regional, and play in front of their home crowd.

The Gophers finished the Big Ten season 20-2 overall and earned the No. 3 seed for the Big Ten Tournament. They got to the championship game against Michigan, where they lost 3-2.

The Gophers were led all season by Amber Fiser, named the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year and one of four Minnesota players to earn All-Big Ten First Team honors. Fiser is 26-7 on the season with a 1.24 earned run average and 301 strikeouts in 214 1/3 innings.

Minnesota finished the season No. 8 in the RPI rankings, and with the toughest schedule in the country. It’s the first home regional for the Gophers since 2014. It's also the highest seed the Gophers have ever gotten in the NCAA Tournament.