Softball NCAA Tournament Overview

The 2019 NCAA Women’s College Softball Tournament field was set on Sunday as 64 teams will begin their quest to get to Oklahoma City and the Women’s College World Series starting on May 30. College Sports Madness has previews for all 64 teams vying for a spot at the WCWS.
Oklahoma, UCLA, Washington, and Florida State were the top four national seeds and they all are very deserving of the top four slots in this field. Oklahoma has won 39 straight games and has absolutely dominated their conference competition and, with G Juarez and Mariah Lopez in the circle, they are going to be very difficult to knock out. UCLA is the number two overall national seed and Washington will be the number three national seed as the Bruins and Huskies shared the Pac-12 Conference title with UCLA earning the automatic berth. The Seminoles were the number four national seed and got back on track in the ACC Tournament and, with Meghan King in the circle will be a tough out, as the defending national champion.
Florida, Arizona, Minnesota, and Alabama rounded out the top eight national seeds in the 2019 NCAA Softball Tournament. The Gators put it all together in the SEC Conference Tournament thanks to seniors Kelly Barnhill and Amanda Lorenz setting the tone for a total team effort all week long in College Station. Arizona is the number six national seed and should not lack for confidence after going into Los Angeles and taking two of three from the Bruins. Taylor McQuillin and Alyssa Denham will form a nice 1-2 punch in the circle for the Wildcats and batting champion Reyna Carranco, who hit .433, lead an Arizona squad that is capable of being very explosive on any given night. Minnesota is the number seven national seed and will get to stay at home all the way to Oklahoma City if they continue to win.
The number eight national seed Alabama Crimson Tide paid a significant price for having the 106th ranked non-conference schedule despite having won the SEC regular season championship by getting seeded lower than Florida. Now, there is a little bit of an upside for Alabama with their draw as they should cruise past Texas in a Super Regional to get to the Women’s College World Series while the Gators will most likely have to deal with Tennessee. Also, in order to win the national championship, you have to deal with Oklahoma at some point and why not take your chances with Montana Fouts or Sarah Cornell in the opening round against the Sooners.
As for the rest of the hosts outside of Ole Miss landing as the number 11 national seed there were not a ton of surprises as Michigan and Northwestern earned regional host opportunities giving the Big Ten three regional hosts. Three regional host bids for the Big Ten Conference is a nice step forward for the growth of softball up in the northern part of the country. Two non-power five schools that did not earn a regional host opportunity were James Madison and Louisiana as both teams dominated the CAA and Sun Belt Conference this season but lost out on getting to host because of the lack of overall strength within their conferences. Both of these teams are going to be a problem for opposing teams in regionals.
Looking ahead to the some of the more interesting regionals in regard to potential upsets you can start in Minneapolis. Drake, with Nicole Newman who has thrown five prefect games this season, is going to be a problem for the Golden Gophers and the Georgia Bulldogs. Georgia will be dangerous as they are battle tested and are led offensively by Alyssa DiCarlo. Minnesota will need Amber Fiser and Hope Brandner to be a lethal 1-2 punch in the circle and at the plate, respectively, in order for them to move on to Super Regionals. The Ann Arbor Regional could end up going to an if necessary game as Michigan has played James Madison once this season with the Wolverines losing to the Dukes in nine innings. Meghan Beaubien and Megan Good should provide for a heck of a pitcher’s duel if both teams cross paths in this regional.   Louisiana won 50 games and, if they are clicking on all cylinders in the circle with Summer Ellyson and offensively with a deep balanced lineup, can cause Ole Miss some headaches in the Oxford Regional. Don’t sleep on Virginia Tech in the Lexington Regional as Carrie Eberle and Keely Rochard have both won over 20 games and they have a strong deep lineup that can hit for plenty of power and for a high average. Caitlyn Nolan is the star of the lineup, and with Kelsey Bennett, Emma Strouth, and Mackenzie Lawter have combined to hit 54 homeruns and have driven in 193 runs as a quartet this season.
Bottom line, the 2019 NCAA Softball Tournament sets up to have some more competitive regionals than in previous years and, as a whole, the teams that play well in all phases while tuning out the noise of fans voicing displeasure on social media about seeding will get to Oklahoma City and the Women’s College World Series. Those teams that can’t drown out the outside noise and feel sorry for themselves will have their season end quickly.  Overall, the sport of college softball is in a pretty good place right now and is only going to continue to get better and the degree of difficulty for teams to get to Oklahoma City is only going to increase as time goes on. Enjoy the Mayhem of the NCAA Tournament starting on Thursday as college softball fans are in for an action packed and drama filled 2019 NCAA Softball Tournament.