Boise State

Boise State draws familiar Pac-12 power for NCAA Tournament opener

Boise State softball hyped over NCAA Tournament selection

The Boise State softball team reacted with excitement upon learning they would face No. 5 Washington in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
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The Boise State softball team reacted with excitement upon learning they would face No. 5 Washington in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Boise State softball team reacted with a collective roar when it learned its first-round NCAA Tournament opponent Sunday night during the live selection show on ESPN2.

The Broncos will make their tournament debut against No. 5 overall seed Washington at 9:30 p.m. MT on Friday at Husky Softball Stadium in Seattle. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU.

"I love it," Boise State coach Cindy Ball said. "I think the girls have been ready. You saw how excited they were. We played (Washington) in the fall ... so it's not going to be something that we haven't seen. We're excited for the challenge."

Boise State (40-14) hosted Washington (44-8) in a scrimmage last September. The Broncos played their entire roster — including pitchers — and lost 11-1. The two schools have just three official meetings all-time, with the Huskies winning all three. The last time the teams played was a 12-1, five-inning Huskies victory in Seattle on March 4, 2016.

Ball also is a former assistant coach at Washington.

"The big thing is we just have to keep playing the way we have — one game, one pitch at a time," Ball said. "We're offensively very strong. We're going to face some tough pitching this weekend, and we've just got to stick to what we do best and that's eroding the pitcher and playing smart, solid defense."

The regional round features a four-team, double-elimination format and will run Friday through Sunday on 16 campus sites. The 16 winning teams advance to the Super Regionals, May 24-27.

Also chosen for the Seattle Regional were Texas (32-24) and Minnesota (39-15), who play at 7 p.m. MT Friday on ESPN. The Broncos are 1-4 against Minnesota and have never played Texas.

Through May 10, Boise State leads the nation with a team batting average of .357.

"This group of girls, they are go-getters," Boise State shortstop Rebekah Cervantes said. "... We all want the same thing, and I think that excitement is what drives us to play so well. "

The Mountain West Champion Broncos closed out the regular season six spots ahead of their preseason conference ranking of No. 7 — the largest outperformance for any league champion in Mountain West softball history. The last time a team won the conference after being predicted to finish in the bottom half of the coaches' poll was BYU in 2001, when it was picked to finish fifth out of six teams.

Their first-ever Mountain West title assured the Broncos an automatic NCAA Tournament berth, which is also a first.

"This is a door of opportunity for us to just say 'Hey, look at us,'" Cervantes said. "We're No. 1 in hitting right now, and I think that's huge for us."