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Northwestern softball makes NCAA tournament, headed to Austin Regional

The Wildcats were a surprise inclusion in the NCAA softball tournament's field of 64, announced late Sunday, and they will be in the Austin Regional hosted by No. 6 seed Texas. Auburn and Houston are also in the double elimination regional.

Full preview coming later this week, but here's the quick first look. The Wildcats barely qualified for the postseason, needing to win yesterday on Senior Day against Illinois to get their record to .500, at 27-27. According to the NCAA selection committee, Northwestern's resume boasted the best non-conference strength of schedule, which allowed NU to squeak into the tourney. The Wildcats finished the Big Ten season tied for fourth and have an RPI of 57. The last time NU made the tournament was 2009, when the Wildcats lost two straight in their regional.

Texas, meanwhile, finished 42-10 overall and tied for third in the Big 12. The Longhorns are ranked No. 10 in the latest Softball poll. Auburn finished 33-21 and lost in the semifinals of the SEC tournament. Houston finished 34-22 and lost in the semifinals of the Conference USA tournament.

NU's first game in the regional will be against Texas at 5:30 p.m. Friday.

The entire bracket is here.