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2022 NCAA Softball Tournament Breakdown

oklahoma Photo by C. Morgan Engel_NCAA Photos via Getty Images.jpg
(Photo by C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

The road to the Women’s College World Series is officially underway, as the 64-team bracket was announced on Sunday night’s Selection Show. Softball America broke down each regional and shared overall thoughts on the committee's reasoning for this year's bracket.

Power Five Heavy

Last year the field had several mid-major conferences such as the Sun Belt, Missouri-Valley and ASUN having two or more bids. This year, however, the tournament is full of power-five teams and the only mid-major conference to earn more than one bid was the AAC, as Wichita State and South Florida heard their names called with at-large bids on Sunday night. The SEC leads all power-five conferences with 12 teams earning a bid. Following the SEC were the Pac-12 and Big Ten with seven teams each, along with six ACC teams and three Big 12 teams.

Reaching For New Heights

There were several teams that made history on Sunday night, whether it was earning a seed hosting tournament games for the first time or just hearing their names called for the first time. Six teams earned their highest seeds ever. Florida State (2), Virginia Tech (3), Arkansas (4), Clemson (10), Duke (12) and Central Florida (16) all made program history by earning their best seeds yet. Out of those teams, four of them will be host sites for the first time, as Blacksburg (Virginia Tech), Clemson (Clemson), Durham (Duke) and Orlando (UCF) will be hosting regional action this week. Lastly, four teams are making their debut and are heading to the big dance for the very first time in Grand Canyon, Murray State, North Texas, and UNC-Wilmington.

Potential Supers Matchups

If the seedlings hold true, certain matchups could create fireworks. Tennessee and its powerful offense matching up with terrific pitching from Alabama is an intriguing possibility. Arkansas could get a crack at redemption by potentially hosting Washington and Gabbie Plain after the Huskies took two from the Hogs in non-conference play. Another matchup that could be exciting to watch is Duke potentially flying across the country to take on UCLA in Los Angeles. The Blue Devils are only in their fifth year as a program and have never reached a super regional, while the Bruins have won a dozen national championships. They have different histories, but both squads are loaded with talent.

* = Denotes Automatic Bid

Norman Regional

  1. Oklahoma (1)
  2. Texas A&M
  3. Minnesota
  4. Prairie View A&M*

Oklahoma has gone wire-to-wire as the top-ranked team in the country all season long. The defending national champions will host Texas A&M from the SEC, Minnesota from the Big Ten and Prairie View A&M from the SWAC. It seems close to impossible for these teams to keep up with Oklahoma’s tough offense.

Orlando Regional

  1. Central Florida* (16)
  2. Michigan
  3. South Dakota State*
  4. Villanova*

Hosting for the very first time in program history, the Knights are led by Jada Cody at the plate and Gianna Mancha in the circle. Playing a tough non-conference schedule as well as winning the conference tournament propelled UCF into hosting rights. The team will welcome a Michigan team with dominant pitching, as well as Villanova from the Big East and South Dakota State from the Summit League.

Tallahassee Regional

  1. Florida State* (2)
  2. Mississippi State
  3. South Florida
  4. Howard*

The Seminoles just picked up a league-leading 18th conference championship. Led by stellar pitching, Florida State has collected 14 wins against nationally-seeded teams this year. Heading to Tallahassee are Mississippi State and slugger Mia Davidson, as well as South Florida’s stud in the circle, Georgina Corrick. Howard from the MEAC is also joining in after the Bison had to rally and win two games to win the conference title.

Columbia Regional

  1. Missouri (15)
  2. Illinois
  3. Arizona
  4. Missouri State*

Missouri is playing its best softball of the season after hitting a rough patch to start conference play. The Tigers have won 11 of their last 14 contests, which included making a run to the conference tournament championship game. Missouri will host Illinois from the Big Ten, in-state rival Missouri State and a young Arizona team that historically is not on the road for the tournament.

Blacksburg Regional

  1. Virginia Tech (3)
  2. Kentucky
  3. Miami (OH)*
  4. St. Francis*

The magical season continues in Blacksburg as the Hokies are hosting a regional for the very first time in program history. Virginia Tech has dominant pitching with one of the best one-two punches in the circle in Emma Lemley and Keely Rochard, both top ten finalists for national freshman of the year and national player of the year, respectively. The Hokies will take on Saint Francis out of the NEC. Also heading to Blacksburg is a Kentucky team that has a solid offense and a very diverse pitching staff. The Wildcats will be looking for redemption after falling earlier in the season to Miami (OH), who is also making the trip to Blacksburg.

Gainesville Regional

  1. Florida (14)
  2. Georgia Tech
  3. Wisconsin
  4. Canisius*

Florida is in an unusual spot as a 14 seed, but the Gators celebrated the return of Hannah Adams, who suffered a hand injury that kept her off the field for a month. The Gators are still playing lights-out defense and are constantly creating havoc on the base paths with the speed that Skylar Wallace and Kendra Falby have. Georgia Tech from the ACC will be in Gainesville as well as Kayla Konwent and her Wisconsin team. Canisius, out of the MAAC, is also making the trip to the Sunshine State.

Fayetteville Regional

  1. Arkansas* (4)
  2. Oregon
  3. Wichita State
  4. Princeton*

If you dig the long ball, this is the regional for you. The fall will fly out of Bogle Park this weekend as the historic season rolls on for Arkansas, winning the regular season and conference tournament in the SEC for the first time. Chenise Delce and Mary Haff lead the pitching staff, while KB Sides and Danielle Gibson lead the offensive efforts. The Razorbacks will host Wichita State and the nation's home-run leader in Addison Barnard, along with Oregon from the Pac-12 and the Ivy League’s Princeton Tigers.

Seattle Regional

  1. Washington (13)
  2. Texas
  3. Weber State*
  4. Lehigh*

Last season, the Huskies felt as if they were under-seeded and played a tough non-conference schedule to secure a higher seed in 2022. This year’s Washington is Texas, as the Longhorns did not earn a national seed and will head to Seattle to take on home-run hitter Baylee Klingler and Olympian Gabbie Plain. Also heading to the Pacific Northwest are Mary Kay Amicone, the Big Sky’s newcomer of the year from Weber State, and Lehigh, who won the Patriot League.

 Los Angeles Regional

  1. UCLA (5)
  2. Ole Miss
  3. Loyola Marymount*
  4. Grand Canyon*

UCLA earned a top five seed this season despite finishing second in the Pac-12 and losing a series to Arizona State, who won the conference this season. However, the Bruins played a tough schedule in non-conference play and had key victories over ranked opponents that propelled them to the five seed. Ole Miss, who has been playing well down the stretch, is heading to Los Angeles. Local team Loyola Marymount will also head to Westwood to take on the Bruins, as well as Grand Canyon from the WAC.

Durham Regional

  1. Duke (12)
  2. Georgia
  3. Liberty*
  4. UMBC*

Duke was a nationally-seeded team last season, but because of COVID-19 protocols, they were unable to host and were sent to Athens. The tables have turned as Duke will now host Georgia from the SEC, as well as ASUN champion Liberty and UMBC from the American East. The ball will fly out of there as well, as Georgia has over 100 home runs on the season, and Duke and Liberty can also make it fly.

Tuscaloosa Regional

  1. Alabama (6)
  2. Stanford
  3. Murray State*
  4. Chattanooga*

Alabama finished the regular season on a rough note, dropping five of their last eight contests, including an early exit from the SEC Tournament, which may have contributed to their lower seeding. The Tide did have a bevy of quality wins and finished second in a tough conference. They will be hosting a Stanford squad that knows a thing or two about taking down top 10 opponents. Murray State is making its very first appearance in the tournament and will be heading to Tuscaloosa along with the Chattanooga Mocs from the SoCon.

Knoxville Regional

  1. Tennessee (11)
  2. Ohio State
  3. Oregon State
  4. Campbell*

Tennessee played the toughest schedule in the entire country this season. The Vols dropped a few of those contests but have gained valuable experience from the tough competition. Ashley Rogers is slowly coming back from an injury that has limited her innings, but Erin Edmoundson, the Texas Tech transfer, has taken much of the load this season. Heading to Knoxville is the Big Ten’s Ohio State, with southpaw Lexie Handley. Mariah Mazon and Oregon State will also make the trip to Rocky Top, along with Campbell from the Big South.

Stillwater Regional

  1. Oklahoma State* (7)
  2. Nebraska*
  3. North Texas*
  4. Fordham*

The Cowgirls recently became just the second team to pull off a victory over Oklahoma this season, led by Kelly Maxwell in the circle. The southpaw is having a banner year and is more than capable of getting her team to a third consecutive appearance in Oklahoma City. To get beyond the regional, the Cowgirls would have to take on the Big Ten Tournament champion Nebraska, who is making its first appearance in six years. North Texas from Conference USA will be making its tournament debut and the Fordham Rams will also make the trip to Stillwater.

Clemson Regional

  1. Clemson (10)
  2. Auburn
  3. Louisiana*
  4. UNC Wilmington*

In just their second complete season of play, the Clemson Tigers earned a national seed. This season the squad played a grueling schedule, which led them to be seeded. Valerie Cagle, a dual-threat player, leads the squad at the plate and in the circle. McKenzie Clark and Alia Logoleo have also been incredibly hot with the bat. UNC Wilmington is one of the four teams making its first appearance in the tournament this year. Also making the trip to Clemson are the Sun Belt’s Louisiana and Auburn, who has the SEC Freshman of the Year in Bri Ellis.

Tempe Regional

  1. Arizona State* (8)
  2. LSU
  3. San Diego State*
  4. Cal State Fullerton*

The ball just keeps flying out of the park in Tempe. Cydney Sanders, the freshman phenom, has been unstoppable this year, as she has 20 home runs to pace the squad. Arizona State has a deep bullpen, all with different styles of pitching. A talented LSU team, that may have had a case to host, is traveling to Tempe and is a squad that has an explosive offense led by Taylor Pleasants. Cal State Fullerton is also making the trip to the desert, along with Maggie Balint and the San Diego State Aztecs.

Evanston Regional

  1. Northwestern (9)
  2. Notre Dame
  3. McNeese*
  4. Oakland*

It has been a successful season in Evanston, as the Wildcats have picked up marquee wins throughout the year to earn an opportunity to host in the tournament. Northwestern is loaded with talent at the plate and in the circle. Rachel Lewis paces the squad in home runs and RBIs, while Danielle Williams leads the Wildcats in the circle and always gives them a chance to win. Notre Dame from the ACC is making the trip to the Chicago area, with ACC Player of the Year Karina Gaskins. The Fighting Irish have three experienced arms in the circle this year. McNeese from the Southland Conference will also make the trip, along with the Horizon League's Oakland Golden Grizzlies.

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