BIG EAST Sends Four Teams to 2011 NCAA Softball Championship

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Four BIG EAST softball teams earned bids to the 2011 NCAA Softball Championship, with Syracuse picking up the conference's automatic berth. Notre Dame, DePaul and Louisville were at-large selections as the NCAA Division I Softball Committee announced the 64-team field Sunday night. Syracuse (44-11) will travel to College Station, Texas to take on No. 21/21 LSU (38-16) Friday, May 20 at the Aggie Softball Complex. Regional host No. 19/18 Texas A&M (41-13), seeded 16th overall, and Sacred Heart (29-19) finish out the College Station bracket. The Orange secured its second-consecutive automatic bid to the NCAA tournament after winning its second-straight BIG EAST Championship title with a 1-0 win against Louisville in the title game May 14. This appearance is the second in program history for the Orange, who look for their first tournament victory after losing to then-No. 14 Oklahoma and Maryland at the 2010 regional in College Park, Md. The 2011 BIG EAST Championship runner-up Louisville (36-18) was chosen as a host site for the NCAA May 20-22 at Ulmer Stadium. The Cardinals will face Illinois-Chicago (25-22) Friday, May 20 at 7:30 p.m., while California (39-10), the tournament's overall seventh seed, and Jacksonville State will kick-off the day's action at 5 p.m. This trip marks Louisville's eight consecutive NCAA Championship bid and the second time it has hosted an NCAA regional. The Cardinals also hosted in 2009. UofL hosted the BIG EAST Championship for the fourth-straight year May 12-14. For the 10th time in as many seasons under head coach Deanna Gumpf and the 16th time in program history, No. 18/24 Notre Dame (45-9) will make an appearance at the NCAA Championship with this year's trip looking familiar for the Irish. Notre Dame will travel to the Ann Arbor, Mich. regional for the fourth-consecutive season, earning an at-large berth after losing to Louisville in the semifinal round of the BIG EAST Championship last week. The Irish square off with No. 20/22 Kentucky in the opening round of play May 20 at 5:30 p.m. with regional host Michigan and Western Michigan filling out the four-team pool. Last season, the Irish went 2-2 in Ann Arbor with both losses coming at the hands of the Wolverines. DePaul (39-13) drew Indiana (37-16) in the first round of the NCAA Championship in the Columbia, Mo. Regional. The Blue Demons will face the Hoosiers at 5 p.m. May 20. Regional host Missouri (46-7) and Illinois State (35-17) fill out the bracket. DePaul beat Indiana 7-3 Feb. 18 and Illinois State 10-6 April 12, but has not faced No. 9/6 Missouri. This NCAA appearance marks the fifth-straight for the Blue Demons with their best finish coming in 2007 when they reached the College World Series. They have been to the NCAAs 14 of the last 15 years. Last season DePaul went 1-2 in the Columbia Regional, posting two losses against Illinois. Thirty conference champions were awarded automatic qualification to the NCAA Division I Softball Championship, while the remaining slots were filled with at-large bids. The top 16 teams were seeded nationally and will play at campus sites this weekend. Regionals are May 20-22 with the winners advancing to the super regional competition for a best-of-three series, taking place May 26-27, May 27-28 and May 28-29 at eight campus sites. The remaining eight teams move on to the Women's College World Series at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City June 2-8.