Softball Heads West For NCAA Eugene Regional

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ALBANY, N.Y. – Hot on the heels of the fifth America East Tournament title in program history, the University at Albany will make the trip to Eugene, Oregon, to play in the NCAA Tournament regional round.  Joining the Danes in their pool are top overall seed and host Oregon, Big-10 runner-up Wisconsin, and WAC champion Utah Valley.

The regional round, which takes place from May 16-18, features a double-elimination tournament which will produce 16 teams for the Super Regionals.  UAlbany will play its first opponent, Wisconsin, on May 16 at 5:00 p.m. eastern time.  The Danes will not play their second game until May 17, regardless of the outcome of their game against Wisconsin.

Oregon (49-7-1) is the No. 1 national seed for the first time in program history after taking over the top spot in both the NFCA and USA Softball top-25 polls for the last five weeks. The Ducks, who will make their fifth consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament, and 18th overall, edged out No. 2 overall seed Alabama, No. 3 seed UCLA and No. 4 seed Georgia.  The Ducks won their second consecutive Pac-12 title, and led the conference in hits (527), tied for first in stolen bases (67) finished second in the conference in batting (.347), runs scored (398), and RBIs (354), and third in slugging (.536) and on base percentage (.431). On the mound, Oregon led the conference in team ERA (1.85), strikeouts (400), and wins (49), and was third in opposing batting average (.211).  UAlbany has played Oregon once before, in their last tournament appearance in 2011.  The Ducks defeated the Danes 3-1 in the first game of the regional round.

Wisconsin (34-18) is an at-large choice for its 12th NCAA Tournament appearance after finishing second in the Big-10.  Wisconsin ended the regular season leading the Big-10 in stolen bases with 110, and attempted almost 50 more steals than any other team in the conference.  Wisconsin also finished fourth the Big-10 in home runs (43), fifth in the conference in both sacrifice bunts (34) and sacrifice flies (9). UAlbany has never played Wisconsin before, but the Badgers are 7-0 all-time against America East teams.

Utah Valley (18-40) is the automatic qualifier from the Western Athletic Conference after winning its tournament, 7-6, over New Mexico State.  Utah State will be playing in its first ever NCAA Tournament.  The Wolverines were first in the WAC in stolen bases (73), second in RBIs (211) and home runs (48) third in slugging (.395), runs scored (228), and hits (273).  UAlbany has played Utah Valley once in school history, earlier this season at the Rebel Spring Games.  Utah Valley won the game 3-0.

UAlbany’s last trip to the NCAA tournament came in 2011, when the Danes traveled to Penn State University.  Oregon was in UAlbany’s region that year as well, defeating the Danes in the opening round 3-1.  UAlbany was eliminated by Penn State in their next game 6-1.

UAlbany previously made three consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament from 2005-2007.  The first year, playing in Notre Dame, Indiana, UAlbany lost to Northwestern 6-1, and then lost to Louisville 5-4.  In 2006, playing in Amherst, Massachussetts, UAlbany lost to Massachussetts 2-0, and then lost to Texas A&M 6-5.  Finally, in 2007 in Hempstead, New York, the program lost its opening game to Baylor 8-2, before winning its first tournament game in history against Harvard 1-0.  The team followed up that victory with another over Hofstra, 4-2, before losing to Baylor 10-0.

Before UAlbany qualified for the NCAA tournament, they had to get through a tough conference tournament.  By the final day of competition, UAlbany had already lost once, their second game to top seed, host, and defending champion Stony Brook, and were playing Stony Brook again in the championship, who had yet to lose.  The game went scoreless through the first nine full innings, before Stony Brook scored two runs in the top of the 10th.  With two on and two out in the bottom of the 10th, freshman catcher Elizabeth Snow hit a walk-off, three-run home run to give Stony Brook its first loss and force a deciding game for the championship.  UAlbany defeated Stony Brook once again, 8-1, to clinch the tournament and the NCAA berth.

While the Pac-12 Network will carry all of Oregon’s games this weekend, they will not cover the games Oregon does not play.  However, those games will be live streamed for free via the Oregon athletics page, GoDucks.com.