The Liberty softball team was eliminated in the 2023 ASUN Tournament after reaching the semifinals, losing two games on Friday, but the season is not over! The Lady Flames earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Regionals as Liberty is heading to Los Angeles to compete in the UCLA Regional. This is the first ever at-large bid to the NCAAs in program history.
To begin regional play on Friday, the Flames will take on San Diego State. No. 2 overall seed UCLA will play Grand Canyon on Friday. Liberty (38-20) is ranked No. 28 in the RPI while UCLA (52-5) is No. 2, San Diego State (35-15) is No. 36, and Grand Canyon (46-11) is No. 69.
Liberty will take on San Diego State on Friday at 11 p.m. Eastern on ESPNU at Easton Stadium. UCLA and Grand Canyon will play first, with first pitch coming on Friday at 8 p.m. Eastern.
The Aztecs enter Regional play as Mountain West Champions, winning three games on their home field this past week to clinch the title. SDSU finished the season at 16-6 in conference play. They just played UCLA on May 5, falling 4-3. The Aztecs are 0-5 this season against top 25 teams. This will be the third ever meeting between Liberty and San Diego State.
Liberty is 3-12 this season against top 25 opponents, picking up wins against Alabama, Clemson, and Central Arkansas. The Bears, who eliminated the Flames from the ASUN Tournament, won the ASUN Championship and received the automatic bid to the NCAA Softball Championship.
The Lady Flames played at UCLA earlier this season, falling to the Bruins, 3-2, on Feb. 14. UCLA holds a 6-0 record all-time against Liberty, with three out of the six meetings being decided by just one run each.
Liberty head coach Dot Richardson played for the UCLA Bruins from 1980 to 1984. While there, she starred and helped the Bruins win their first NCAA championship in 1982. She was inducted into the UCLA Hall of Fame in 1996.
The Lady Flames now advance to a third straight NCAA Tournament. In 2021, Liberty was the 2-seed in the Knoxville Regional where the Lady Flames defeated the host Tennessee who was the No. 9 national seed in an elimination game. Liberty lost two games in the Regional, including the Regional Final, to eventual Women’s College World Series participant James Madison.
Last year, Liberty defeated Georgia to open play in the Durham Regional. The Lady Flames would go on to lose their next two games, falling to Regional host Duke and Georgia to be eliminated.
The Lady Flames are 5-10 all-time in NCAA Regional play. Liberty dropped both games in 2002 in the Columbia, South Carolina Regional and did the same thing in 2011 in the Knoxville, Tennessee Regional. In 2018, Liberty won its first two games over Hofstra and South Carolina to advance to the regional final where the Lady Flames would lose consecutive games to the host Gamecocks prior to finishing 2-2 in 2021 with losses to JMU sandwiched around wins against Eastern Kentucky and Tennessee.
NCAA Los Angeles Regional Schedule
Friday, May 19
Game 1: No. 2 UCLA vs. Grand Canyon – 8 p.m. ET
Game 2: Liberty vs. San Diego State – 11 p.m. ET
Saturday, May 20
Game 3: Game 1 Winner vs. Game 2 Winner – 5 p.m. ET
Game 4: Game 1 Loser vs. Game 2 Loser – 7:30 p.m. ET (loser eliminated)
Game 5: Game 3 Loser vs. Game 4 Winner – 10 p.m. ET (loser eliminated)
Sunday, May 21
Game 6: Regional Final – Game 3 Winner vs. Game 5 winner – 6 p.m. ET
Game 7: * if necessary – Rematch of Game 6 – 8:30 p.m. ET