U to headsouth forNCAA regionals

by Jeff Sherry

The NCAA confirmed Sunday night what Gophers softball coach Lisa Bernstein was hesitant to say all weekend: Minnesota’s 44-16 season was good enough to earn a regional bid in this year’s NCAA tournament.
The Gophers will travel to Lafayette, La., this weekend to play its first NCAA tournament game since 1991. They received the region’s No. 2 seed and will play third-seeded Nebraska (40-21) in their first game on Friday afternoon.
“Oh my God, we are ecstatic,” Bernstein said Sunday night. “We just wanted the opportunity to get into this tournament.”
Southwestern Louisiana (42-8), the region’s host and No. 1 seed, will play Southland Conference champion Nichols State (46-17), the fourth seed, in Friday’s other game. One team from each of the eight regions will advance to the College World Series in Columbus, Ga., from May 23-27. The regional tournaments have a double-elimination format.
The Big Ten received a record four bids to the 32-team tournament Sunday. Michigan and Iowa will each host a regional, and fourth-place Indiana will travel to Seattle.
Last year the Big Ten received two NCAA bids for the first time ever, and Iowa and Michigan responded by winning their regions.
“Both for the University of Minnesota and for the Big Ten, we got a lot of respect,” Bernstein said. “Hopefully we’ll do them proud and follow in Iowa and Michigan’s shoes last year by getting four Big Ten teams in the College World Series.”