After an abbreviated 40-game season — against conference teams only — the Gophers softball team will hit the road for its first nonconference games of the season.
The Gophers (29-11), the Big Ten runners-up, were one of three conference teams selected for the 64-team NCAA tournament field on Sunday.
The Gophers, in their first season under coach Piper Ritter, will travel to Los Angeles for a four-team, double-elimination regional hosted by No. 2 overall seed UCLA. The Gophers will play Fresno State (36-10) on Friday in the first round. The host Bruins (41-4) will play Long Beach State (30-9).
"We're excited," Ritter said. "We didn't know what to expect tonight. We are grateful to play another weekend and to have our best softball when it matters the most."
It is the eighth postseason appearance in the past nine seasons — there was no tournament last year — for the Gophers. The Gophers and UCLA met in the 2019 College World Series in Oklahoma City. The Bruins defeated the Gophers 7-2 en route to the national championship.
The Bruins are making their 36th appearance in the tournament — the most by any school. Their pitching staff has a team ERA of 1.17 — second-best in the nation.
Oklahoma (45-2) was the No. 1 overall seed for the tournament, which begins on Thursday.
Michigan (36-6), the Big Ten champion, will travel to Seattle to play in the regional hosted by No. 16 overall seed Washington, while Northwestern (29-15), which finished in third, will play at the regional hosted by No. 14 seed Kentucky.
Teams led by former Gophers coaches Jessica Allister and Jamie Trachsel were also in the field. Allister and Stanford will join South Dakota State at the regional hosted by No. 6 seed Arkansas, while Mississippi, in its first season under Trachsel, will play in the regional hosted by No. 11 Arizona.
• In their regular-season finale Sunday, the Gophers lost to Penn State 4-1 in State College, Pa. The Gophers, who outscored the Nittany Lions 22-3 in winning the first three games of the series, took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a home run by MaKenna Partain. The Nittany Lions (7-34) scored two runs in each of the first two innings. The Gophers managed just three hits in the final six innings.