The Fresno State softball team didn’t get the scenario it wanted Sunday evening as it gathered for a NCAA Selection Show watch party at the Josephine Theater.
Despite putting up one of the best seasons in Mountain West Conference history, Fresno State – which most recently was ranked No. 17 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 and No. 19 in the USA Today/NFCA poll – was left out of the top 16 teams to host a regional.
Instead, the Bulldogs will head to Southern California and compete in the UCLA Regional that also features Big West champion Cal State Fullerton and Western Athletic Conference champ Cal State Bakersfield.
The Bulldogs, who also held the No. 18 spot in the RPI, had won 23 games in a row and 22 in conference before dropping Saturday’s regular-season finale 10-7 to UNLV.
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Should the Bulldogs have completed their perfect run through the conference, they might have had a better shot at hosting a regional, according to coach Trisha Ford.
“It is what it is,” Ford told reporters Sunday right after the tournament field was announced. “I pretty much knew that if we swept (the MW), we would have a good opportunity to host, but Saturday didn’t work out that way so we’re going to UCLA.”
Still, the Bulldogs are hopeful as they return to the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row and 32nd time in program history.
The Bulldogs (41-10-1) will open the regional against Fullerton (43-14) at 3 p.m. Friday. The teams met March 22 at Fullerton, with the Bulldogs losing 5-0. However, that loss was also their last before winning 22 in a row to start conference play.
“We’re excited to keep playing,” said third baseman Alyssa Villalpando, who added the team has refocused after Saturday’s loss. “Saturday and last season were gut checks for us, but we’ve mentally reset and our goal is still to win a regional.”
The Bulldogs went 0-2 in last season’s NCAA Tournament, where they played in the Oregon Regional.
“We’re in a good position,” Ford said. “I think it’s a winnable regional. UCLA has been a perennial powerhouse. They come from a good conference, but so do we. And I will put money on us every game. If we come out ready to play, we’ve got a chance.”
The Roadrunners (16-32), who are led by a strong central San Joaquin Valley contingency that helped them capture the WAC Tournament crown Saturday, will face No. 12 seed UCLA in the first game. The Bruins (35-13-1) finished runner-up in the Pacific-12 Conference behind No. 4 seed Oregon.
The 16 winning teams advance to Super Regionals on May 26-29, with the survivors there moving on to the Women’s College World Series from June 2-8 at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium/OGE Energy Field in Oklahoma City.
UCLA REGIONAL SCHEDULE
- Friday: Game 1 - 3 p.m. Fresno State vs. Cal State Fullerton ; Game 2 - 6 p.m. UCLA vs. Cal State Bakersfield
- Saturday: Game 3 - noon, Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner; 3 p.m. Game 4 - Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser; 6 p.m. Game 5 - Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 winner
- Sunday: Game 6 - noon, Game 3 winner vs. Game 5 winner; 3 p.m. Game 6 winner vs. Game 6 loser (if necessary)