MINNEAPOLIS - Minnesota softball head coach Jamie Trachsel announced the Gophers 2018 schedule Wednesday afternoon. The reigning back-to-back Big Ten Champions embark on another journey to reach Oklahoma City following a historical 56-5 season.
The Maroon and Gold will play 22 games against teams that competed in the NCAA Tournament, four of which appeared in the Super Regionals and one in the Women's College World Series. Among those 22 games, Minnesota will square off against five teams that finished in the USA Today/NFCA Top-25 a season ago and 10 which finished in the RPI Top 50.
"We are very excited about the announcement of our 2018 spring schedule," stated Trachsel. "This is a championship caliber schedule that will test us each and every weekend. The high level of competition and number of NCAA teams will not only challenge us physically, but it is also built to battle test us for when we begin conference play and our quest for championships. We are looking forwarded to all the challenges this schedule and season presents. There is no question this schedule will best prepare Minnesota softball for every post season opportunity we earn."
The Gophers continue the road warrior mentality to start the season after last year's 25-2 start. Minnesota has their work cut out for them in a challenging February and March schedule.
Heading west for five games at the SportCo Kickoff Classic in Las Vegas, Nev., Minnesota will be tested early. During the three-day trip, the Maroon and Gold takes on Southern Utah, Utah Valley, North Dakota St., host UNLV, and Creighton.
The following weekend Minnesota heads south to Tallahassee, Fla. to take part in the third annual B1G/ACC Challenge. During the three-day stretch, Minnesota will play four games with two against Notre Dame and two versus Florida State. Last year the Gophers took two games from Notre Dame in the challenge with the one-run finale taking eight innings to decide a winner. The Gophers and Seminoles met back in the inaugural B1G/ACC Challenge in 2016, in two close games, Florida State took both games on their home turf. Notre Dame and Florida State made NCAA Tournament appearances, while FSU has made appearances in the Super Regional the last five seasons.
The journey to Oklahoma City continues as the Gophers play five games at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla. Participating in the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic, they will play Kentucky, South Alabama, Bradley, Lehigh and Duke who will be competing in their inaugural season. Both Kentucky and Lehigh were NCAA tournament teams last season, with Kentucky reaching the Super Regional and falling to Oregon in Eugene.
March will start on the west coast in San Diego, Calif. for the Gophers. Competing in another tough five games, Minnesota will open up against Oregon State and San Diego St. On day two following a contest with Long Beach St , Minnesota will take on UCLA who finished last season as the fifth ranked team following a trip to Oklahoma City and the WCWS for the third straight year. Wrapping up the weekend, Minnesota will take on Colorado State.
Over spring break Minnesota will play nine games in the span of eight days. Minnesota will open the stretch with a single game at Arizona St., followed by games against Grand Canyon and Georgetown in Phoenix, Ariz. Minnesota then heads back to Tempe, Ariz. on March 11 to take on Arizona State in a double header series finale. Staying in the Copper State, the Gophers head to Tucson for a single game on March 14 as they take on the eight-time national champion Arizona Wildcats. Minnesota will wrap up the west coast trip with a three game series at New Mexico State on March 16 and 17.
Opening up Big Ten play on the road, the reigning Big Ten regular season champions will travel to Northwestern. Last season the Gophers swept the Wildcats at home in the earlier parts of their late 26 game win streak.
After time away from Jane Sage Cowles Stadium, Minnesota will return to its home turf and the loyalist fans in the land on March 30-April 1 in a Big Ten home-opener clash with Illinois. Minnesota welcomes the Illini to Dinkytown with a chip on their shoulder after suffering their only conference loss of the year last season to the Fighting Illini.
The next two Big Ten series find Minnesota on the road at Michigan State and Iowa. This will be the first meeting between the Gophers and Spartans since 2015 where the Maroon and Gold completed the three game sweep in East Lansing, Mich. Against Iowa, the Gophers took all three games at home outscoring the Hawkeyes 17-1 in the series.
The Border Battle against Wisconsin returns to Minneapolis as the Gophers and Badgers clash in a midweek doubleheader on April 18. Last year's meeting saw a marathon game one in which the Gophers broke through in the top of the 12th for a 6-0 win before a 12-1 shortened game two victory.
Minnesota continue the seven-game home stand welcoming Nebraska and non-conference opponent North Dakota St, before heading to Purdue in their final regular season road trip.
Closing out the regular season at home, Minnesota hosts South Dakota (22-32) on May 2 for a single game before Penn State comes to town for the Big Ten series finale May 4-6.
Minnesota will defend their Big Ten Tournament title in Madison, Wisc. with the Big Tournament set for May 10-12.
The NCAA Tournament is scheduled to begin on May 18, with Super Regionals set to begin May 25. The Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City, Okla. will take place May 31-June 6.
Information for 2018 season ticket renewals and wait list will be coming soon. Single-game tickets will be on sale at a later time and date. Stay up to date on all information by visiting Gophersports.com and following us on social media at Twitter and Facebook.
Gophers Fall To Washington in Regional Final, 5-2.
5/20/2018 - Softball
Minnesota softball could not hold off a late rally by No. 5/5 Washington, falling by a score of 5-2.
Gophers Survive and Advance to NCAA Regional Final
5/20/2018 - Softball
Behind a late spurring offense and the strong arm of junior Sydney Smith, Minnesota (41-16) advanced to Sunday's Regional Final.
Gophers Fall in NCAA Regional Opener to Texas, 2-1
5/18/2018 - Softball
Minnesota found themselves on the opposite side of a pitcher's duel before falling to Texas in the opening round of the NCAA Seattle Regional, 2-1.