BALTIMORE, Md. — It took the Morgan State University Bears nearly three decades to qualify for the best college softball tournament in the nation.
It’s been so long it’s still tough to comprehend.
"It’s unreal," said Bears Head Coach Larry Hineline. "You work hard at something and you see it on TV, you’re a fan of it. But when you are in it, it’s kind of hard to believe. It’s like wait a minute, I’m with all the things and the people that I admired. I’m in with them now. You got to shake yourself a little bit and say, ‘Am I really here?’. But we’re here."
The Bears are in Norman, Okla. to play in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in the 28 year Division I history of the program. Morgan earned the automatic bid to the tourney by winning the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament last weekend.
"Everybody is very excited. People just keep talking about it and it’s never like, ‘Oh my gosh!’. Everybody has good things to say," said Bears pitcher Stephanie Rundlett.
"I’m very excited to be here," added Bears center fielder Jalian Young. "No matter who we were going to play, I was just so excited to make it to regionals."
Who they’re playing to begin the double-elimination regional is powerhouse, No. 1 overall seed Oklahoma. The Sooners are dominant on offense and defense. At the plate they lead the nation with 130 home runs. That's 36 more than any other team.
The Bears are up for it.
"Playing a team like Oklahoma, it could be a little bit intimidating," said Bears right fielder Aliya Ewell. "But they are playing on the same field as us and we’ve been playing softball just as long. Anybody is beatable. So, even though they’re ranked No. 1 in the country, that doesn’t mean that we can’t win. We just have to come out and do our best."
That’s the plan when first pitch arrives on Friday night at 8:30 Eastern.
"For me it’s not daunting," said Hineline. "This is what we’ve been preparing for and hopefully we put on a good performance for everyone."
With a loss on Friday the Bears would play Saturday at 6:30 p.m. Eastern, in the elimination bracket ,against the loser of the Wichita State vs. Texas A&M contest. With a miraculous upset victory against Oklahoma they would play Saturday at 4:00 p.m. Eastern against the winner of that game.