So much of NCAA Tournament softball will be new for Wichita State. So much of it will be familiar, as well.
The fourth-seeded Shockers, making their first NCAA appearance since 2005, play No. 3 national seed Oklahoma at 8 p.m. Friday at Hynes Field in Norman, Okla. on ESPN.
The coaches, players, administrators and a few fans gathered in the Champions Club at Koch Arena to watch the selection show on ESPNU. Women’s basketball coach Jody Adams shot video of the celebration with her phone. The players knew they had a spot in the 64-team field, yet that didn’t calm all the nerves.
“It was a lot more nerve-wracking than I thought it was going to be,” pitcher Katie Malone said. “The more we waited and the more we waited, it started getting more nerve-wracking. When we saw our name pop up there … it was great.”
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The Shockers (35-19) know all about the Sooners (47-7), who defeated them 10-1 on April 6 and 8-2 in 2015. In 2014, OU swept a doubleheader 3-0 and 9-1. Tulsa (35-19) and Mississippi (39-20) fill out the regional bracket. WSU swept Tulsa this season, winning 11-3 and 7-5.
“We’ve faced OU’s ace earlier in the season and, while we didn’t have a lot of success, but we’ll be more prepared,” WSU’s Macklin Hitz said.
WSU has won 14 of 15 games entering NCAA play. The Sooners have won 22 straight.
“I was a little suprised, I thought we’d be a No. 3 seed,” WSU coach Kristi Bredbenner said. “We’ve got a couple things going for us. We’ve got a regional where we play Tulsa. We know a lot about them. We know a lot about OU. It’s always a good feeling when you’re playing in a familiar place and you’re playing familiar opponents.”
WSU won the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season and claimed the Valley’s automatic bid to the NCAAs on Saturday with a 5-0 victory over Drake. The Shockers lost in the tournament opener the past two seasons, including as the No. 1 seed in 2014.
“Everything we’ve been working for, we were finally able to do it,” Malone said. “For our seniors, for our coaches … for our class, as freshmen, this is what we’ve been working for.”
Worth noting — Wichita State pitchers Jenni Brooks and Malone and shortstop Laurie Anne Derrico were named to the all-tournament team. Outfielder Brittany Fortner earned tournament MVP honors. … Florida is the No. 1 seed in the 64-team field. Florida, two-time defending national champion, is coached by former WSU coach Tim Walton. … The Shockers also played in the NCAAs in 1989 and 2005.
at Norman, Okla.
Tulsa (35-19) vs. Mississippi (39-20), 5:30 p.m.
Oklahoma (47-7) vs. Wichita State (35-19), 8 p.m. (ESPN)
▪ OU ticket office — (405) 325-2424
▪ All-session tickets are $40 (reserved), $25 (adult general admission), $20 (student GA). If available, single-session tickets go on sale at 3:30 p.m. Friday.