FARGO - Weather took care of the North Dakota State and University of Minnesota softball doubleheader this season. The Bison will get another shot at the Gophers.
NDSU, 42-14, will play No. 7 overall seed Minnesota in the Minneapolis Regional on Friday night in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Drake vs. Georgia rounds out the four-team double-elimination regional that concludes on Sunday.
It matches Bison head coach Darren Mueller against his former co-head coach, Gophers head coach Jamie Trachsel. In her second year, Trachsel is 2-0 against Mueller taking a doubleheader in 2018.
“She’s done a great job down there,” Mueller said. “I’ve been proud and impressed with what she’s done. I thought all along and we’ve talked throughout the season that they’re one of the top eight teams in the country.”
NDSU is getting so used to an NCAA tournament softball selection show that it’s getting to the point where it’s almost part of the schedule. It doesn’t make it any less cool for the head coach, however.
It’s the 10th time in the last 11 years that NDSU will be part of the 64-team field. The Gophers will take a 41-12 record into postseason. Drake, 42-14, won its second straight Missouri Valley Conference tournament title and Georgia, 40-17, finished in a tie for sixth in the Southeastern Conference.
The bracket was announced on ESPN2.
“I still got a little nervous before the show started,” Mueller said. “Just the anticipation. You never know where you’re going or where you’re going to be seeded. I’m excited for our new kids who haven’t had a chance to experience it.”
Of the 64 teams, 32 including NDSU received automatic bids. The Bison won the Summit League tournament on Saturday at its own Tharaldson Park beating the University of South Dakota twice.
Afterward, Mueller told a couple well-wishers that he wouldn’t be surprised if the Bison were headed to Minneapolis for the regional.
“We kind of expected it because of the proximity and the way the top 16 teams are this year,” he said. “We expected Minnesota to be one of the top 16 seeds.”
NDSU has been accustomed to beating top 25 teams over the years, but went 0-5 against ranked teams this season. The closest was a 7-6 loss to No. 11 Arkansas and 5-3 defeat to No. 5 Washington.
Minnesota lost to Michigan 3-2 in the Big Ten Conference title game. The Gophers beat Drake twice this season 4-1 and 2-0. Their only mid-major loss was 4-1 to Florida Gulf Coast.
They’re led by junior pitcher Amber Fisher from Van Horne, Iowa, who is 26-7 with 301 strikeouts and a 1.24 earned run average.
Regionals will be held at 15 on-campus sites followed by Super Regionals at eight on-campus sites, which comprises two teams in a best-of-three series. NDSU advanced to a Super Regional in 2009 at Arizona State after winning the Norman Regional at the University of Oklahoma.