SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – After winning the first-ever Pac-12 Softball Tournament title, the University of Utah softball team learned they would be opening the NCAA Tournament at home as the No. 15 national seed.
The Utes will take on Southern Illinois Friday at 1:30 p.m. at Dumke Family Softball Stadium at 1:30 p.m. MT.
Baylor and Ole Miss will also play in the double elimination regional, with the winner advancing to the Super Regionals next week.
“Hearing our name, it kind of didn’t matter where it was,” said head coach “Amy Hogue. “To be able to host is just a testament to what this group has done. So the excitement to be at home is just beyond words right now.”
“It’s awesome, sleeping in my bed is the best part of my week,” said Utes leading hitting Aliya Belarde, who is hitting .393 this season. “We’ve been on the road for a long time now, and it’s going to great playing at our home turf.”
This is Utah’s 17th NCAA Tournament appearance and their first since a 2017 campaign that saw them reach Super Regionals.
Friday’s clash will be the first ever between the Utes and the Salukis, who punched their ticket to the dance by rattling off four straight victories in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament to take home the league championship and reach the NCAA Tournament for the 14th time.
“Pure joy honestly, I mean, we worked so hard for this moment and for it to be real is just the best feeling in the world,” added centerfielder Abby Dayton.”
“It feels amazing,” said pitcher Sydney Sandez. “It’s like a dream come true, we’ve been waiting for this moment, so it just feels amazing.”
Utah (37-13) won the Pac-12 Tournament with a 7-4 victory over UCLA, which earned the #2 overall seed.