Six Big Ten Teams Earn NCAA Softball Tournament Bids
May 15, 2006
Six Big Ten squads have been tabbed to compete in the 2006 NCAA Women's Softball Championship, which begins with regional action from Thursday, May 18 through Sunday, May 21. Big Ten regular-season champion Northwestern, along with conference tournament winner Michigan, Iowa, Ohio State, Indiana and Penn State all received berths to the NCAA Championship.
Northwestern garnered its best-ever seeding in the event with the No. 4 overall spot in the field of 64. The Wildcats will host an NCAA Regional at Sharon J. Drysdale Field for the first time in the current tourney format after posting a 42-12 overall record and winning its first Big Ten title since 1987.
The Wildcats will open play against Southern Illinois at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, May 19, while Notre Dame and UC Santa Barbara round out the four-team region. The four teams will play a double-elimination tournament, with the winner advancing to a best two-out-of-three super regional for the right to go to the Women's College World Series.
The 13th-ranked Michigan Wolverines will look to defend their national championship title when make their 12th straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament and 13th showing in program history with the No. 9 overall seed for the 2006 event. Winners of back-to-back Big Ten Tournament titles, the Wolverines (40-13) host their fifth straight regional, opening competition against Youngstown State on Friday at 7 p.m. They are joined by Oklahoma and Kent State.
Advancing to its seventh consecutive NCAA Championship, Iowa will also host its regional competition for the first time since 2002. California, Nebraska and Illinois State will join the Hawkeyes (39-20) in Iowa City, Iowa, May 19-21. Iowa will open competition against Nebraska at 4:30 p.m. Friday, with California and Illinois State to follow at 7 p.m.
The Ohio State Buckeyes (38-21) received an at-large bid and will join Marist and No. 24 Auburn in the regional hosted by third-ranked Arizona, which begins Thursday. The Buckeyes are making their seventh NCAA tournament appearance, including their third in the last six seasons, and head to Tucson for the first time since 1996. ESPN2 will televise the regional championship game Saturday. The Arizona regional is one of two that begin Thursday, with the Buckeyes meeting Auburn in the opener at 4 p.m. (MST).
A semifinal finish in the conference tournament earned Indiana a spot in the Texas Regional. The Hoosiers (29-23) open their NCAA Tournament action against Utah at 4 p.m., at Red and Charline McCombs Field on May 19 in Austin.
Penn State (37-15) earned its sixth NCAA tournament bid in the past seven years as part of the Hempstead, N.Y. region. The Lions will meet host Hofstra on Fridayat noon to begin their NCAA action. Also in the Hempstead Region are No. 6 Arizona State and Long Island.
This year marks the second year the NCAA Regional Tournament will use its new format. Sixteen sites were chosen as host schools with four teams in each site. The winner of each regional will advance to the NCAA Super Regionals, held May 26-27 at campus sites to be determined. Eight Super Regional winners will then advance to the Women's College World Series, held June 1-7 at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, OK.
Ann Arbor Regional - May 19-21 at Ann Arbor, Michigan
Evanston Regional - May 19-21 at Evanston, Illinois
Austin Regional - May 19-21 at Austin, Texas
Hempstead Regional - May 19-21 at Hempstead, New York
Iowa City Regional - May 19-21 at Iowa City, Iowa
Tucson Regional - May 18-20 at Tucson, Arizona