Following their runner-up finish in the Big Ten Tournament on Saturday, the Ohio State softball team had to stay up late on Sunday to learn whether or not their postseason run would continue into the NCAA tournament. Fortunately for Kelly Kovach Schoenly’s Buckeyes, it will, as the softball team is headed to Knoxville, TN for regional play this weekend.
The four teams in the region will be No. 8 Tennessee, Longwood, USC Upstate, and OSU. Each NCAA softball regional is setup as a double-elimination tournament, with one winner moving on to the best-of-three super regionals the following week.
The Buckeyes will open up their regional action on Friday, May 19th at 4:30pm ET against USC Upstate. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3. The Spartans were the champions of the Atlantic Sun Conference, and earned the automatic bid after besting Florida Gulf Coast 8-0 in their tournament finals.
USC Upstate finished the regular season 44-11 against a schedule of mostly mid-majors. The Spartans did play one Big Ten squad this season, beating Purdue 7-0. Ohio State did not play the Boilermakers in 2017.
The Spartans are led by two dominant pitchers, seniors Holly McKinnon and Lexi Shubert. Both boast an ERA under 1.50 (1.36 and 1.43 respectively), which puts each in the top 33 nationally.
In the other half of the regional bracket, Ralph and Karen Weekly’s No. 8 Volunteers are coming into the NCAA tournament with a 44-10 record after falling to LSU in the first round of the SEC tournament. The Vols enter the regionals hitting .320 on the season, with USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year finalist Meghan Gregg leading the way, batting .448.
The Volunteers will first match up against the Longwood Lancers on Friday at 7:00pm ET on ESPN2. The Lancers won their fourth Big South softball championship in five years by knocking off top-seeded Liberty in the championship series. Coming into this week’s regionals, Longwood carries a 28-27 record, and will likely be led in the circle by sophomore Sydney Gay, who has 16 complete games on the season with a 2.35 ERA.
After the Big Ten tournament, Ohio State has a 35-16 record and enters the regionals as one of the best power hitting teams in the country. The Buckeyes average 1.23 home runs per game, best for third nationally, and their .491 slugging percentage is the 15 best in the country.
The winner of the Knoxville region will advance to play the winner of the College Station region, which includes No. 9 Texas A&M, Texas Southern, Texas, and Texas State.
Minnesota (54-3), despite being ranked second nationally in the final regular season poll and defeating Ohio State 6-0 in the Big Ten finals, was not selected to host a regional, due to their low RPI score. Instead, the Gophers will travel to the Tuscaloosa Regional, where they will face Louisiana Tech, Albany (NY), and No. 16 Alabama.
The other Big Team teams preparing for regional play are Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan.