How the College World Series works

The eight teams that won super regionals and qualified for the College World Series have been split into two four-team, double-elimination brackets. Double-elimination play happens Thursday through Sunday. The winners of each bracket then compete in a best-of-three series to determine the champion.

All eight teams play their first game Thursday, and the first-game winners come right back to play Friday while the losers wait until Saturday to play again. The Gophers’ first game Thursday is scheduled for 1:30 p.m., vs. UCLA. This game and most others will be on ESPN (and ESPN2 for the rest).

Bracket play continues through Sunday, and then the two bracket-winning teams square off each night in the championship series: Monday, Tuesday and, if necessary for Game 3, Wednesday of next week (June 3-5).

That daily schedule could be altered by rain — in fact, plan on it. Plenty of storms are in the weekend forecast for Oklahoma City. All games are played at USA Hall of Fame Stadium in OKC.

When the Gophers could play

If the Gophers win their opener vs. UCLA on Thursday, they’ll advance to play at 6 p.m. Friday vs. the winner of Washington-Arizona.

If the Gophers lose Thursday, they’ll play at 11 a.m. Saturday against the Washington-Arizona loser. If they lose that one, their season is over (double-elimination bracket play). If they win that Saturday morning game, they’ll play again Saturday evening and need to win again to advance to Sunday, the final day of bracket play. Again, rain could mess up these days and times.

How the Gophers stack up

Go ahead and call the Gophers the underdogs. They are the only program in Oklahoma City this week that hasn’t been in the CWS before. And softball is a southern and western sport. Only one team from outside the Sun Belt or West Coast has won an NCAA softball title — Michigan in 2005.

The No. 7-seed Gophers open the World Series on Thursday against powerful UCLA, the No. 2 seed. Top-seeded Oklahoma (51-3) is considered the favorite by many, but UCLA is one of three teams to defeat the Sooners this season. UCLA (51-6), bidding for its first national title since 2010, is led by Rachel Garcia, who is 24-1 with a 1.01 ERA and hitting .344 with nine home runs and 49 RBI.

The other two teams in the Gophers’ bracket are Washington (50-7), led by pitchers Taran Alvelo (25-4, 1.55 ERA) and Gabbie Plain (23-2, 1.14 ERA), and Arizona, second in the nation to Oklahoma with 106 home runs. Wildcats junior Jessie Harper leads the nation with 28 home runs.

Arizona, Washington and the Gophers are the only teams still without a loss in this year’s postseason.

A quick World Series history lesson

Between 1969 and 1977, the ASA sponsored a softball championship that was held in Omaha. From 1978 to 1982, the AIAW sponsored a softball championship. Softball was one of 12 women’s sports added to the NCAA championship program for the 1981-82 school year. In 1982, the AIAW and NCAA both conducted softball championships, but that was the last one held by the AIAW.

The tournament has been held in Oklahoma City every year since 1990, except for 1996, when it was held in Columbus, Ga.

Teams from two conferences have won 30 of the 37 NCAA tournaments. Teams from the Pac-12 have won 24 titles while teams from the Big 12 have claimed six titles. UCLA has won 12 titles (its 1995 title was vacated by the NCAA) and Arizona has won eight. Oklahoma has won four times. Florida State, which won the 2018 title, lost to Oklahoma State in last weekend’s Super Regional.

Minnesota is the sixth Big Ten team to reach the World Series since 1982. It is the 25th appearance by a Big Ten team. Michigan has made 12 appearances, Northwestern five, Iowa four, Indiana two and Nebraska one. The most recent appearance for each: Michigan (2016), Nebraska (2013), Northwestern (2007), Iowa (2001) and Indiana (1986). Northwestern was the runner-up in 2006.