PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Five BIG EAST softball teams have been selected to participate in the 2012 NCAA Softball Championship, setting a conference record for most league teams chosen. Louisville, Notre Dame, Syracuse, USF and DePaul will all represent the conference in postseason play, while the Cardinals have been seeded No. 15 and selected to host regional action. The NCAA Championship is a 64-team tournament beginning on May 18. Regional action will take place at host schools on May 18-20 with Super Regionals running from May 24-27. The Women's College World Series will be held in Oklahoma City, Okla., from May 31-June 6.
Each of the first regional games will be played on May 18.
No. 8/9 Louisville will host Valparaiso at 7 p.m., at Ulmer Stadium. The Cardinals also will host Kentucky and Michigan and all Louisville Regional games will be televised live on ESPN2. The 2012 BIG EAST regular-season and tournament champions have qualified for the NCAA Championship every year since joining the conference in 2006 and will host a regional for the third time during that stretch. The Cardinals are searching for their first trip to the Super Regionals and the College World Series. This season, they own a 53-3 overall record, the best record in the championship. The team set program marks for most wins in a season and longest winning streak when it opened the year 28-0. Louisville also will test its perfect home record, 25-0 at Ulmer Stadium this season.
Notre Dame earned an at-large bid and will face Hawaii at 5:30 at the University of Arizona in the Tucson Regional. Joining the Irish and the Warriors in Tucson are No. 13 Arizona and North Dakota State in a regional that will be televised live on ESPNU. The Irish are making their 14th-straight appearance in the NCAA Championship, but have yet to advance further than the regional round. ND (38-14) finished runner-up in the BIG EAST Championship, after posting a 17-game winning streak prior to the title game.
Syracuse will head to Tempe, Ariz. to play Long Beach State while No. 3 Arizona State and LIU-Brooklyn will make up the other half of the Tempe Regional. The Orange were an at-large selection after earning a 40-14 overall record. SU is making its third-straight trip to the NCAA Regionals and is searching for its first appearance in the Super Regionals and the College World Series.
USF will stay in-state to face Central Florida in the Gainesville Regional at the University of Florida. The No. 5 Gators and Florida Gulf Coast will round out the regional teams. USF is making its first appearance in the championship since 2008, and its third overall since joining the BIG EAST. The Bulls have compiled a 45-11 overall record and were the first team in the nation to reach the 40-win mark this season.
DePaul is matched up against Massachusetts in the first game of the Columbia Regional. Other teams competing in Columbia are No. 9 Missouri and Illinois State. The Blue Demons (35-20) have qualified for six-straight NCAA Championships and are one of only two BIG EAST teams to have advanced to the Women's College World Series, doing so in 2007.
The conference has sent four teams on three occasions, including 2008, 2010 and 2011. Syracuse, Louisville, DePaul and Notre Dame were all selected in each of the past two years.