“They can’t take Regionals away from us.”
Head coach Cindy Ball-Malone said 1B Shannon Doherty sent that text to her last year, soon after the American Athletic Conference stripped the UCF Knights Softball team of hosting the 2022 conference tournament.
The decision to relocate three 2022 championships was in accordance with longstanding conference bylaws that were agreed upon by all members – nothing more.— The American (@American_Conf) September 27, 2021
All schools remain eligible to host any championships that are determined by regular-season standings. https://t.co/Xxd1PLw2E7
Doherty’s words proved prophetic Sunday night, as the Knights (46-12, 16-2) found out they would play host to an NCAA Softball Tournament Regional for the first time in program history. They will do so as the overall No. 16 seed.
“We had this goal set for a while, that quote goes to show that,” Doherty said after the show.
UCF will welcome Michigan (36-15), Villanova (31-22), and South Dakota State (37-10) to Orlando.
Only the Wolverines will have faced the Knights prior to next weekend, as they shut out the Knights, 6-0, back in February during the St. Pete/Clearwater Invitational.
This regional is stacked. All 4 teams have dominant starting pitching.
UCF’s first matchup will instead be against Big East Champion, Villanova, at 6 p.m. on Friday which will air on ESPN +. The Wildcats are led by one of the best two-way players in college softball in two-time Big East Player of the Year Paige Rauch.
Michigan is led by legendary Head Coach Carol Hutchins who is the all-time leader in wins in college softball and has 2 All-American arms in Alex Storako and Megan Beaubien.
South Dakota State is the two-time defending Big Summit League Champion led by 2022 pitcher of the year Grace Glanzer and 2021 pitcher of the year Tori Kniesche.
UCF thought they were going to host in 2015 after winning AAC regular season and tournament titles only to be denied as they were sent to Tallahassee despite 47 wins and ranked in 16. This team would be denied but know they are playing for the 2015 team and past players that had to play in Gainesville in 2005, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014 and in Tallahassee in 2015 and 2021.
Here is how the regional works: it is a double-elimination regional that starts on Friday with South Dakota State and Michigan at 3:30 p.m. followed by the Knights game.
The winner of the regional will advance to the super regional against the winner of the Norman regional where the No. 1 ranked, and defending National Champions, Oklahoma is the heavy favorite to advance.
Here is the regional schedule below.
Friday, May 20th
- Game 1 - 3:30 p.m.: South Dakota State vs. Michigan
- Game 2 - 6:00 p.m.: Villanova vs. UCF
Saturday, May 21st
- Game 3 - Noon: Game 1 Winner vs. Game 2 Winner
- Game 4 - 2:30 p.m.: Game 1 Loser vs. Game 2 Loser
- Game 5 - 5 p.m.: Game 3 Loser vs. Game 4 Winner
Sunday, May 22nd
- Game 6 - 2 p.m.: Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 5 (Regional Final)*
*Game 7 to follow at 4:30 p.m. if necessary