MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - One of the eight roads to the NCAA Women’s College World Series runs through Minneapolis.
The University of Minnesota women’s softball team had to take a minute to let that sink in Sunday night. They were at the Stadium Village Buffalo Wild Wings, awaiting their seed for the NCAA Softball Tournament.
They were hoping to be one of the top 16 seeds in the tournament, which would guarantee hosting a first round regional. The top eight seeds, if they get out of the first round, host the following Super Regional and pave the path to the World Series.
Gophers players were almost caught off guard when Minnesota popped up on the NCAA Selection Show as the No. 7 seed. Players jumped out of their seats and screamed. Coaches gave their applause, there were several hugs and some shed a few tears.
For the first time since 2014, the Gophers will host at least one regional.
“I just couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t even get myself to stand up. I was just in shock and I was just so happy,” Big Ten Pitcher of the Year Amber Fiser said Sunday night. “To see everyone so excited and stand up, it was an amazing feeling that we finally earned it.”
Makenna Partain, leading the Gophers with a .407 batting average and 16 doubles, stood up and stared at a TV screen with her jaw dropped. She said, "Holy crap."
It was a special moment for coach Jamie Trachsel, in just her second season with the Gophers. They played the toughest schedule in the country and were No. 8 in the final RPI rankings.
Two seasons ago, the Gophers entered the NCAA Tournament 54-3 after winning the Big Ten championship. It wasn’t enough to host a regional, as they were sent to Alabama. That season ended in two 1-0 losses to the Crimson Tide.
Last year, in Trachsel's first season, they were sent to the Seattle Regional and were elminiated by then No. 5-ranked Washington.
Hosting a regional this year was a goal from the start of the season. It’s why they put together such a difficult schedule. Getting a top eight seed was extra special.
“It’s huge. Everyone’s dream is to get to the Women’s College World Series and to know that we have a chance to be at home, someone has to come into our place and do that,” Trachsel said. “To know that we have a shot and would carry it through at home would be unbelievable.”
The Gophers (41-12, 20-2) will face North Dakota State in the nightcap Friday. Georgia faces Drake in the early game. Minnesota’s match-up against North Dakota State hits close to home for Trachsel, who spent 14 seasons there climbing the coaching ranks.
If Minnesota can get out of the regional, it will host a Super Regional over Memorial Day weekend. It’s one road closer to the College World Series. It’s a dream come true for the eight Minnesota natives on the Gophers’ roster.
“I had no words. I had tears, no words. We are so beyond excited,” senior outfielder and Plymouth native Maddie Houlihan said. “We had some expectations on where we thought we might be, but you never really know what’s going to happen.”
The Gophers went 10-1 at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium in the regular season, the only loss coming in the series opener to Northwestern. At one point this season, Minnesota won 11 straight games and enters the NCAA Tournament having won 15 of its last 17 games.
They’re making their seventh straight trip to the NCAA Tournament.
“I can’t be happier with where we’re at right now,” Trachsel said.