Minnesota, Oklahoma among teams vying for WCWS title

Published 7:45 am Thursday, May 30, 2019

OKLAHOMA CITY — Two years ago, Minnesota was ranked No. 1 in the USA Today/NFCA softball poll heading into the NCAA Tournament.

Somehow, the Golden Gophers weren’t even a national seed and got sent to Alabama for regional play. It was a harsh fate for a highly respected Minnesota team with a 54-3 record. Alabama, a traditional power, won the national title in 2012 and was the runner-up in 2014.

The Crimson Tide eliminated the Golden Gophers with two one-run wins, leaving a cloud over what by many measures was the best season in Minnesota history.

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Two years later, Minnesota hosted regionals and Super Regionals as a No. 7 seed and broke through to reach the Women’s College World Series for the first time in school history. The Golden Gophers (46-12) will play UCLA (51-6) on Thursday at USA Hall of Fame Stadium.

Jamie Trachsel, who took over as Minnesota’s coach after that 2017 season, said her team appreciates the opportunity.

“We take it personally that we are getting to represent some teams that came before us, some of the opportunities that maybe they didn’t get, that we did get and we earned,” Trachsel said.

In other opening day matchups, No. 1 seed Oklahoma (54-3) will play Alabama (57-8), Oklahoma State (44-15) will face Florida (49-16) and Washington (50-7) will meet Arizona (47-12) in a battle of Pac-12 rivals.

Minnesota ranks seventh nationally with a 1.64 ERA and has hit 72 home runs. Amber Fiser was the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year. She has 31 wins this season and pitched all 36 innings for the Golden Gophers during NCAA Tournament play.

Infielders Natalie DenHartog, MaKenna Partain and Hope Brandner join Fiser as first-team All-Big Ten selections. They will be on a new stage, and Trachsel said there’s no time for her team to ease its way in.