Gophers softball team gets at-large bid to NCAA Tournament

The Minnesota Gophers softball team is starting to heat up. (DenHartog Natalie/University of Minnesota)

The University of Minnesota softball team, ranked No. 23 in the country after a 29-11 regular season, has received an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

The Gophers are headed to Los Angeles, Calif., and will face Fresno State at 7 p.m. Friday in a game that will be televised on ESPNU. UCLA, the No. 2 overall seed in the tournament, is hosting the regional and will face Long Beach State after the Gophers play Fresno State.

"We’re excited. We didn’t know what to expect tonight. We are grateful to play another weekend and to have our best softball team when it matters the most," Gophers coach Piper Ritter said Sunday night.

Due to COVID-19 protocols, regional assignments were based on geographic proximity, with the only exception being that teams in the same conference wouldn’t be placed in the same regional. The NCAA regional play will be held May 20-23 on 16 campus sites across the country. They’ll feature a four-team, double-elimination tournament. The 16 winning teams advance to the NCAA Super Regionals.

Super Regionals will be held May 27-30 on eight campus sites, where two teams will play a best-of-three series. The eight series winners will head to the NCAA Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

The Gophers won four of their last five games to close out the season 29-11 in the Big Ten, which was second overall. It’s Minnesota’s 15th NCAA Tournament appearance, and eighth straight. The Gophers made their first trip to the NCAA Women’s College World Series in 2019. It’s also the first trip to the NCAA for the Gophers under Ritter as head coach.

The Gophers are one of three Big Ten teams to make the NCAA Tournament, joining Michigan and Northwestern. Fresno State got the automatic bid from the Mountain West Conference after taking the league regular season title with a 20-4 record. It’s the Bulldogs’ first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2017, and 34th in the history of the program. Long Beach State won the Big West, and UCLA finished the season 41-14. The Bruins won the Pac-12 regular season title with a 19-2 record.