- This will be the first time Texas and Texas A&M will play in softball since the Aggies left the Big 12 in 2012.
- The Longhorns are red hot, having won 10 of their final 11 regular-season games, including the last five.
- The winner of this regional will advance to the winner of the Norman Regional; host Oklahoma is the No. 3 overall NCAA seed.
Texas and Texas A&M, which have been mostly denied regular-season competition since the Aggies bolted for the SEC in 2012, still are considered viable rivals and noteworthy opponents by the NCAA.
The latest non-football meeting between the two old rivals will come in softball; Texas and Texas A&M on Friday in the first round of the Lafayette Regional of the NCAA softball tournament. The pairings were announced Sunday night.
Since 2012, Texas and Texas A&M have faced each other in just about every sport except football and softball. This is the first time the Longhorns and Aggies have played each other since April 2012, A&M’s final season in the Big 12. The winner of Friday’s game will meet the winner of the matchup between host Louisiana-Lafayette, the No. 14 overall seed in the NCAA tournament, and Boston University.
“I’m not certain that our current team really has an idea of the rivalry we’ve always had with Texas A&M,” Texas coach Connie Clark said. “It may have a little different feel than it used to, but it’s still Aggies and Longhorns. Lafayette is driving distance for both fan bases, so I’d expect a lot of fans from both groups to make the trip over. I’m really excited about the draw and heading to such an exciting atmosphere to play in.”
Texas (37-14) earned a berth in the NCAAs with a third-place finish in the Big 12. The Longhorns won 10 of their final 11 games, including five straight to close out the regular season. This is Texas’ 17th regional appearance; the Longhorns are 34-21 all-time in regional games.
Texas’ final regular-season game against Baylor at home was rained out Saturday night. The Longhorns were pleased to get the rest, Clark said.
“We are heading into the regional as healthy and as rested as we’ve been all season, and I’m happy for the way we finished the regular season with a lot of confidence,” Clark said. “We’ve had a great season so far, but now it gets fun — working for success at this time of year is what drives us all.”
On Sunday, there was a heightened sense of excitement for the team, which had gathered at Clark’s home to watch the selection show on TV, especially when they saw that they’d be playing A&M (37-18), which finished 10th in the SEC.
“We were excited just to see our name called, and when we saw the Aggies as our opponent, things rose a notch or two,” Texas second baseman Stephanie Ceo said. “We feel great about where we are as a team heading into the NCAA tournament, and we will look at playing Texas A&M like it’s just another opponent that’s in the way of us advancing and achieving our goals.”
Louisiana-Lafayette (43-7), which blitzed Texas State 12-0 in the Sun Belt championship game on Saturday to earn that conference’s automatic bid, will be a tough squad to beat, especially at home. The Longhorns played in the Lafayette Regional in 2014, losing to the Ragin’ Cajuns twice.
The winner of the Lafayette Regional will advance to face the winner of the Norman Regional, where No. 3 national seed Oklahoma hosts Wichita State, Ole Miss and Tulsa.
Texas State (39-20) earned an at-large bid into the tournament after finishing second to Louisiana-Lafayette in the Sun Belt championships and will face California (31-22-1) in the early game Friday in the Tuscaloosa Regional. Host Alabama, the No. 6 national seed, will face Samford in the later game Friday.
“I couldn’t be more proud of a group of young ladies and what they’ve accomplished and the hard work they’ve put in,” Texas State coach Ricci Woodard said. “(Getting selected to be a part of the tournament) is very deserving and well-earned for a team that’s worked their tail ends off.”
Florida, the two-time defending national champion, is the No. 1 overall seed while Oklahoma, the Big 12 champion, garnered the No. 3 spot. The Sooners are the hottest team in the tournament field, with 22 straight wins entering NCAA play.
Two other Big 12 teams earned berths in the NCAAs as Oklahoma State will play in Athens Regional against Northwestern and Baylor will head to the Eugene Regional to face Long Beach State. Seven Southeastern Conference teams are in the top 16 seeds and a record 11 SEC teams made the tournament field.