After winning the program’s first Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference softball championship with a 10-5 win over North Carolina Central on Saturday afternoon, Morgan State has received its first bid to the NCAA Division I tournament.
The NCAA DI softball committee announced the 64-team championship field for the tournament Sunday night. The Bears (24-15) will face Oklahoma, which earned the No. 1 seed after going 45-2 in the regular season and will host the Norman Regional that also includes Texas A&M and Wichita State. Morgan State’s game against the Sooners is set for Friday at 8:30 p.m. and will be livestreamed online on ESPN3.
Six teams are making their first appearance in the tournament: Clemson, Duke, George Washington, Morgan State, South Dakota State and Villanova.
The team’s road to success seemed inconceivable in mid-February when the university shut down all athletic activity after approximately 40 positive cases for COVID-19 were discovered. The softball team was one of 13 athletic programs affected by the suspension, which wiped out 15 nonconference games.
“We’ve got some good recruits that I’m real proud of,” coach Larry Hineline said recently. “This is Division I softball, and some of these kids are blue-collar players. They didn’t come in with a lot of fanfare, but they certainly can play, and we’re very pleased with them. All of them have contributed, and we use our roster. We’ve gone games where we’ve rolled through a lot of people with pinch hitters and pinch runners in situations depending on the kind of game. We’ve played 20 players in a game. It gives the umpire fits, but we certainly like to use our players. They’re there for a reason.”
Thirty-one conferences were awarded automatic qualification, while the remaining 33 slots were filled with at-large selections to complete the bracket. The top 16 teams were seeded nationally and will play at campus sites beginning this Thursday. Regional assignments were determined by geographic proximity, with the exception that teams from the same conference were not placed in the same regional.
Regionals will be held May 20-23 on 16 campus sites. At each campus site, a four-team, double-elimination tournament will be conducted, and the 16 winning teams advance to the super regionals.
Super regionals for the championship will be held May 27-30 on eight campus sites. At each site, two teams play in a best-of-three tournament format. The winners from each super regional advance to the Women’s College World Series from June 3-9 at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium – OG&E Energy Field in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
May 21-23 at Norman, Oklahoma
No. 1 seed Oklahoma (45-2) vs. Morgan St. (24-15)
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Texas A&M (31-21) vs. Wichita St. (39-11-1)