PROVO -- The BYU softball team (39-16) will make its fifth-consecutive NCAA Championship appearance at the Columbus Regional, as the 64-team field was announced Sunday night by the Division I Softball Committee.
The regional site is hosted by No. 11 Ohio State (44-9). Kentucky (32-21) and Canisius (27-22) will also join BYU in Columbus.
“We’re excited to go to Ohio and compete in that region,” BYU head coach Gordon Eakin said. “We will be facing teams that we haven’t played a lot. Ohio State, Kentucky and Canisius will present challenges to us, but we feel good about our team’s ability to win.”
BYU will open Regional play when it faces Kentucky at 3 p.m MDT Thursday. It will be the first matchup between the two schools. Ohio State and Canisius will face off at 5:30 p.m. MDT.
The news was welcomed with great excitement by the Cougars, who gathered together to watch the selection show on ESPNU. Three Mountain West Conference teams will participate in the 64-team tournament. BYU received the automatic bid after clinching its fourth MWC title, while San Diego State and UNLV both received at-large bids.
The Cougars have faced 12 teams that made the tournament, carrying a 7-10 record against qualifying teams. Their most notable wins came at the hands of California, who was ranked No. 7 at the time, and a combined no-hit performance against Fresno State.
With their sixth Regional appearance since the program’s inception in 2000, BYU looks to advance to the NCAA Super Regionals for the first time. In both 2008 and 2007 the Cougars fell in the Regional Championship game.
Thirty conferences were awarded automatic qualification, and the remaining 34 slots were filled with at-large selections to complete the bracket. The top 16 teams were seeded nationally and will play at campus sites this weekend.
Team pairings were determined by geographical proximity, with the exception that teams from the same conference were not paired during regional competition, when possible.
The SEC led all conferences with nine teams in the championship, while the Big 12 placed seven and the Big Ten and the Pacific-10 each placed six. California State University, Fresno, remains the only team to be selected to all 28 championships. Seven teams are making their initial appearances in the tournament: Bradley University, James Madison University, the University of Kentucky, North Dakota State University, Radford University, Sacred Heart University and the University of Tennessee at Martin.
Only nine schools have been crowned the NCAA Division I softball champion since the tournament started in 1982, and all are in this year’s bracket.