Oregon, Florida, UCLA, Oklahoma top NCAA Softball Bracket
Defending Champion Oklahoma is seeded 4th in this season's NCAA Tournament — by Oklahoma Athletics
The NCAA has announced the field for the 2018 Division I Women's Softball Tournament and while there are just two schools responsible for the last five softball national titles, the 2018 NCAA Division I Softball Championship is set for an exciting stretch following the release of the 64-team bracket Sunday.
Oklahoma and Florida certainly remain top contenders after combining to win the last five championships, but top seeded Oregon, along with UCLA are certain to make a run at taking home the championship trophy from Oklahoma City.
Teams can capture the championship with as many as four losses during the tournament thanks to the double-elimination format in each round, so fans should be in store for a wild ride over the next month.
Here is a breakdown of the upcoming tournament led by top overall seed Oregon.
The Top Seeds….
No. 3 UCLA
The most consistent team in the country this season, UCLA ended the year with a 50-4 record, winning the first 25 games of the year and didn't show any signs of slowing down as the season progressed.
The Bruins posted an amazing 29-2 away from home in road and neutral games, which is a bad sign for opponents during the NCAA tournament.
The Bruins are led by Rachel Garcia, who was the Pac-12 Player of the Year after an incredible season both at the plate and in the circle.
Garcia hit .355 with nine home runs, and was even more stellar on the mound with a 21-2 record as a pitcher, featuring a 1.08 ERA. After adding in conference Freshman of the Year Aaliyah Jordan and hurler Holly Azevedo, among others, and UCLA will be a tough team to beat.
No. 1 Oregon
While UCLA boasted a better overall season record, Oregon stepped up and made it known that the Ducks had no fear facing some of the nation's elite teams.
The Ducks topped the Bruins twice out of the three games with the Bruins at home, swept three games road games against Washington and topped it all off earning a 5-0 win over Oklahoma in a non-conference match-up. The Ducks sit with the No. 1 RPI in the nation per NCAA.com, as a result.
Add to all that, the Ducks captured the always tough Pac-12 conference this season.
Depth is the key for Oregon, with a lineup that features seven starters hitting .300 or better - as a team batting .322 as a team this year.
On the mound, both Megan Kleist and Miranda Elish can dominate any opponent, and each finished the season with 20 wins. Kleist struck out 200 on the year, while Elish came just short with 196.
No. 2 Florida
The Gators earned their 50th win of the season during their 3-1 SEC Tournament Championship win over South Carolina. It marked Florida's 10th 50-win season in program history, all with head coach Tim Walton at the helm.
Juniors Kelly Barnhill and Amanda Lorenz have both been tabbed by USA Softball as Top-10 Finalists for their 2018 Collegiate Player of the Year Award. Barnhill was named the SEC Pitcher of the Year, with Lorenz earning Player of the Year honors for the League.
Of their 50 wins in 2018, eight have been come-from-behind victories, so opponents will have to be aware no lead is safe with the Gators in the opposing dugout.
No. 4 Oklahoma
Owners of two of the past three NCAA Championships, Oklahoma head coach Patty Gasso has her Sooners looking for more.
While both the Pac-12 and SEC were again extremely competitive this season, it was all Oklahoma in through the Big 12 campaign, putting up an 18-0 run through the conference along with winning the Big 12 tournament.
Sooner hurler Paige Parker's Pitcher of the Year award was good for the fourth of her career. Parker dominated once again, boasting a 0.51 ERA during the season. Freshman Jocelyn Alo ranked second in the country with 23 home runs, there is no questioning the talent on this roster.
With the experience in dealing with championship runs abounding through the Sooner dugout, there is little doubt that another run could be in the Oklahoma future. Add to that the fact they have dropped just one game since the start of March, opponents should certainly be concerned.
Super Regionals: May 24-27
College World Series: May 31-June 5/6
No. 1 Oregon vs. Albany (Thursday at 8:30 p.m. ET) BYU vs. Drake (Thursday at 6 p.m. ET)
Illinois-Chicago vs. No. 16 Kentucky (Friday at 2:30 p.m. ET) Michigan vs. Notre Dame (Friday at 12 p.m. ET)
No. 9 South Carolina vs. UNC Greensboro (Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET) Liberty vs. Hofstra (Friday at 5 p.m. ET)
New Mexico State vs. No. 8 Arizona State (Friday at 9:30 p.m. ET) Long Beach State vs. Ole Miss (Friday at 7 p.m. ET)
No. 5 Washington vs. Boise State (Friday at 11:30 p.m. ET) Texas vs. Minnesota (Friday at 9 p.m. ET)
Middle Tennessee vs. No. 12 Alabama (Friday at 9:30 p.m. ET) Oregon State vs. Wisconsin (Friday at 7 p.m. ET)
No. 13 Arkansas vs. DePaul (Friday at 5 p.m. ET) Wichita State vs. Oklahoma State (Friday at 2:30 p.m. ET)
Boston University vs. No. 4 Oklahoma (Friday at 7 p.m. ET) Missouri vs. Tulsa (Friday at 4:30 p.m. ET)
Los Angeles Regional
No. 3 UCLA vs. Sacramento State (Friday at 11 p.m. ET) Cal State Fullerton vs. Texas State (Friday at 8:30 p.m. ET)
St. Francis (Pa.) vs. No. 14 Arizona (Friday at 11:30 p.m. ET) Mississippi State vs. North Dakota State (Friday at 9 p.m. ET)
Baton Rouge Regional
No. 11 LSU vs. Fordham (Friday at 6:30 p.m. ET) Houston vs. Louisiana (Friday at 4 p.m. ET)
Jacksonville State vs. No. 6 Florida State (Friday at 2:30 p.m. ET) Auburn vs. Kennesaw State (Friday at 12 p.m. ET)
No. 7 Georgia vs. Harvard (Friday at 2:30 p.m. ET) Northwestern vs. California (Friday at 12 p.m. ET)
Monmouth vs. No. 10 Tennessee (Friday at 5:30 p.m. ET) James Madison vs. Ohio (Friday at 3 p.m. ET)
College Station Regional
No. 15 Texas A&M vs. Prairie View (Friday at 7 p.m. ET) McNeese vs. Baylor (Friday at 4:30 p.m. ET)
Bethune-Cookman vs. No. 2 Florida (Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET) Ohio State vs. South Florida (Friday at 5 p.m. ET)
This article was originally published on @srschultz