Four Big Ten teams were selected to the 2013 NCAA Softball Tournament, it was announced on Sunday night. Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin will represent the conference in this year’s bracket, which will get underway on Thursday with regional action.
Michigan advances to its 21st national tournament, having appeared in the last 19 annual events. The Wolverines, who have earned berths to nine Women’s College World Series previously in their history, are the No. 8 national seed and will host regional competition this weekend. The Wolverines will open play against Valparaiso, with California and Central Michigan also part of the Ann Arbor Regional, which will be carried by ESPN3 beginning Friday.
Minnesota, which finished as the runner-up in the Big Ten Tournament, returns to the NCAA bracket for the first time since 2003 and will make its eighth all-time appearance. The Gophers are part of the Seattle Regional and will take on Hawaii in the opening game of the double-elimination regional on Friday. Portland and host Washington make up the other half of the four-team pod.
Nebraska earns its first berth in the NCAA Tournament as a member of the Big Ten and its 21st all-time. Appearing in the field for the fourth time in the last five seasons, the Huskers are seeded 14th nationally and will serve as one of 16 regional hosts in the opening round this weekend. Nebraska takes on Northern Iowa in its first game on Friday, with Stanford and Tulsa also part of the Lincoln Regional.
Wisconsin earned the Big Ten’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament after claiming its first Big Ten Tournament title on Sunday afternoon. The Badgers will make their fourth appearance all-time in the annual postseason event and first since 2005. Wisconsin is part of the Eugene Regional, where it will face North Carolina in its first game of tournament play on Thursday, while host Oregon will square off against BYU.
The 64-team field is divided into 16, four-team double elimination regionals, which begin Thursday. The 16 regional winners advance to super regionals, where eight will emerge as Women’s College World Series participants.