The defending national-champion Oklahoma Sooners are headed back to the NCAA Tournament this season, along with three other softball teams from the Big 12 Conference.
The Lady Sooners put the finishing touches on their third consecutive Big 12 championship in softball and their seventh overall with an 11-2 victory and two-game sweep of the Oklahoma State Cowgirls on Sunday. As the Big 12 champion, Oklahoma earned the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and the chance to make a third straight trip to the Women’s College World Series, which conveniently in played in Oklahoma City.
In addition to the 10th-ranked Sooners, the Baylor Lady Bears, the runner-up in this season’s conference race, the Kansas Lady Jayhawks and the Texas Lady Longhorns also received NCAA Tournament bids.
Oklahoma (45-10), winners of its last dozen games and making its 21st consecutive appearance in the NCAA Regionals in softball, will host one of the regional sits. Other teams in the Norman Regional are Bryant, Hofstra and former Big 12 school Texas A&M. The Sooners will take on Bryant on Friday.
Baylor (42-13), the 17th-ranked team in the latest ESPN.com/USA Softball poll, will also host a regional. Northwestern State, which will be the Lady Bears’ opponent on Friday, will be joined in Waco by Houston and Tulsa.
Texas (33-21) is making its 10-straight NCAA appearance and will travel to Lafayette, La., where the Lady Longhorns will be joined by Mississippi State, Texas Southern and host Louisiana-Lafayette. Texas’ first-round regional opponent will be Mississippi State.
The final team out of the Big 12 headed to an NCAA regional in softball is Kansas (33-21), making its first trip to the NCAA Championship in eight years. The Lady Jayhawks finished fifth in the Big 12 standings this season, but received an NCAA at-large bid over fourth-place Texas Tech because of a No. 40 ranking in RPI.
Kansas won’t have to travel too far away from home. The Jayhawks will be in Columbia, Mo., where the host is former Big 12 archrival Missouri. Nebraska and Bradley will also be in Columbia. Kansas will meet another former Big 12 school, Nebraska (now in the Big Ten), on Friday.