Eight of nine Pac-12 softball teams will be playing for the NCAA Championship in the coming weeks, as the NCAA Committee announced Sunday night the 64 teams vying for the 2012 NCAA Division 1 Softball Championship. All regionals will be held May 18-20, except for the Eugene regional that will take place May 17-19.
30 conferences were given automatic qualification and the other 34 spots were filled with at-large selections, the NCAA website stated. The top 16 teams were seeded nationally and are set to play at campuses this weekend. Four teams will play each of the 16 regional sites in double-elimination format.
"I feel like this year more than any other year its been more wide open," said Jessica Mendoza, Stanford left fielder (1999-02), four time 1st All-American and 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist. "You've seen the bats kind of quiet down, the pitching really step up and because of that you're seeing less runs scored. You're going to see a lot closer games."
"This has been the year of the freshmen and the year of the underclassmen," said Michele Smith, Oklahoma State pitcher (1986-89) and ASA Softball Hall of Fame Inductee (2004). "We've had some outstanding effort by the young kids."
May 17-20: Regionals -- Double Elimination
May 24-27: Super Regionals -- Best-of-3
May 31-June 6: Women's College World Series -- Double Elimination
June 4-6: Championship Series -- Best-of-3
The top 8 seeds will host regionals and if they can hold on, super regionals.
California -- Overall No. 1 seed -- Making its 28th NCAA appearance and 27th straight -- Finished the regular season 50-4 overall and captured the Pac-12 regular season title with a 21-3 record -- Led by Valerie Arioto, Jolene Henderson and Jamia Reid -- 3rd consecutive year with a Top-16 seed -- Ranked No. 1 in polls in 12 of 13 weeks -- Won 2002 National Championship.
"This is a tremendous opportunity for us, we've waited so many years to be able to host," said Cal head coach Diane Ninemire. "What I saw in that team in 2002 was the strong will to win and the same team in 2012 has the same will as the 2002 team and so I think we have all the pieces that we need in order to win a championship."
2. Alabama -- Won the SEC regular season and SEC tournament titles; the latter after defeating Florida 10-1 last Saturday -- Led by SEC Pitcher of the Year Jackie Traina -- 8 of 9 starters are hitting over .300 -- SEC Coach of the Year Patrick Murphy -- Led SEC in BA, HR and runs scored.
3. Arizona State -- Defending NCAA Champions - Finished 2nd in the Pac-12 -- Lost only one series all year (Cal) -- Went 46-7 overall -- Last year then-freshman Dallas Escobedo led the Sun Devils on the mound and this year senior Katelyn Boyd and the offense can hit hard -- Led Pac-12 in scoring (7.3 runs per game).4. Oklahoma -- 2012 Big 12 Champions -- Keilani Ricketts is strong in the circle and freshman Lauren Chamberlain is a three-time Big 12 Player of the Week, having been named May 14 after breaking the Big 12 single-season record for home runs with 25 with three in Oklahoma's three-game sweep of Iowa State.
5. Florida -- 13th NCAA appearance -- Lone senior Michelle Moultrie leads as well as freshmen like Lauren Haeger and Sami Fagan and sophomore Hannah Rogers in the circle. The Gators lost to Arizona State in the finals last season and to Washington in 2009.
6. Texas -- 12th NCAA trip -- Blaire Luna is a top pitcher and the Longhorns have speedy offense for big runs.
7. Tennessee -- 10th appearance -- Raven Chavanne, Lauren Gibson, Madison Shipman and the Renfroe sisters pitching are names to watch out for.
8. Texas A&M -- 23rd NCAA appearance -- Led by junior pitcher Mel Dumezich and junior catcher/first baseman Meagan May.
11. Oregon -- 3rd straight NCAA appearance.
12. UCLA -- NCAA-leading 11 titles, with the most recent win in 2010.
13. Arizona -- 8-time winners; last time captured back-to-back trophies in 2007 and 2006.
14. UL Lafayette
16. Washington -- Defeated Florida in 2009 for the Huskies' first title.
No. 1 California vs. Iona
Arkansas vs. Boston University
No. 16 Washington vs. Harvard
Maryland vs. Texas Tech
No. 9 Missouri vs. Illinois State
Massachusetts vs. DePaul
COLLEGE STATION REGIONAL
No. 8 Texas A&M vs. Bethune-Cookman
Texas State vs. LSU
No. 5 Florida vs. Florida Gulf Coast
Central Florida vs. South Florida
LOS ANGELES REGIONAL
No. 12 UCLA vs. Hofstra
San Diego State vs. Florida State
No. 13 Arizona vs. North Dakota State
Notre Dame vs. Hawaii
Oregon State vs. Tulsa -- OSU's first NCAA appearance since 2007. Had best season since last appearance.
Lehigh vs. No. 4 Oklahoma
No. 3 Arizona State vs. LIU Brooklyn
Long Beach State vs. Syracuse
No. 14 UL Lafayette vs. Mississippi Valley State
Baylor vs. Stanford -- The Cardinal's 15th NCAA trip.
No. 11 Oregon vs. Portland State
Mississippi State vs. BYU
No. 6 Texas vs. Northwestern
Houston vs. Auburn
No. 7 Tennessee vs. Miami (OH)
UAB vs. Virginia Tech
No. 10 Georgia vs. Coastal Carolina
Georgia Southern vs. North Carolina
No. 15 Louisville vs. Valparaiso
Kentucky vs. Michigan
No. 2 Alabama vs. Tenn-Martin
South Alabama vs. Georgia Tech