MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

OU

May 14, 2013

Oklahoma, Arkansas and Tulsa ready for regionals

NORMAN – A dominant regular season paid for Oklahoma on Sunday with the No. 1 Sooners earning the top overall seed in the NCAA Division 1 softball tournament. Along with that comes home-field advantage throughout the tournament, starting with a matchup versus Marist at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Marita Hynes Field.

It is the fifth time in the past six years the Sooners have hosted a regional. The Sooners (47-4) have never faced Marist (30-24) before, but OU is 4-0 all-time against teams from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, in which the Red Foxes finished the season 10-6.

With pairings announced and four days before the first pitch is thrown, OU coach Patty Gasso said the Sooners will stay busy preparing for the weekend.

“There will be a lot of research, a lot of preparation and film and getting everyone on the same page,” she said. “We’re excited to get started.”

Earning the tournament’s top seed is a major benefit to the Sooners, who have been ranked No. 1 in the country ever since the second week of the season. But, while the Sooners are “honored” to be given the top seed, Gasso said it doesn’t amount to much more than bragging rights once games start.

“It puts you in a pretty good position and gives you home-field advantage, but ultimately the work is still right in front of us,” she said. “You’ve still got to get it done on your field.”

Arkansas is the No. 2 seed in the Norman Regional and will make their second tournament appearance in as many years. The Razorbacks (34-18) face Fordham (35-21) at 5 p.m. Friday in the first game of the regional.

“Last year we were nervous about getting in,” said Arkansas coach Mike Larabee. “The players are excited to be back in the tournament. We have a lot of players from Oklahoma in our program and they are excited to play close to home.”

The team heads to Norman, Okla. as winners of eight of their last ten games. The Razorbacks finished the regular season with a 34-18 record and a 12-10 mark in the SEC. Arkansas fell in the second round of the SEC Tournament to No. 7 Missouri, 8-0, on Friday.

“We have our work cut out for us,” Larabee said. “We are a lot deeper this year and we are a better team. Playing in the SEC tested us. We have played some of the best competition in the country. I am confident in our girls, they will be ready to play.”

Tulsa will be heading to the Lincoln Regional as it faces off against Stanford at 4 p.m. Friday.

The Golden Hurricane (42-14-1), which earned an at-large bid, are making their third straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament and sixth in school history, all since 2006. Stanford (39-17) earned an at-large bid out of the Pac-12 conference. Regional host Nebraska (40-13) will play Northern Iowa (26-24) in the other opening round game at 7 p.m. Friday.

This will be the second meeting between Tulsa and Stanford in the NCAA Tournament. The Cardinal defeated the Hurricane, 8-0, in 2006 in Tulsa’s first-ever NCAA postseason game.

“We’re excited to be invited into the tournament and have a chance to continue our season,” Tulsa coach John Bargfeldtsaid. “We feel like have a good team, and we have an opportunity in front of us. We’ve prepared for this opportunity all season, and it shows with all the teams we played that are in the tournament. I feel we played a challenging schedule and it helped us prepare going into regionals.”

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