Florida International U

FIU softball has had an historic year, and it’s not over yet. Up next: the NCAA tournament.

Members of the FIU softball team celebrate after learning they had been selected to the NCAA tournament.
Members of the FIU softball team celebrate after learning they had been selected to the NCAA tournament. Courtesy of FIU Athletics

There’s a dance party in Gainesville this weekend, and FIU will be there — in cleats.

The Panthers’ softball team has earned a spot in the NCAA tournament, and they will be just a car ride away.

FIU, which won a school record 45 games this season, has been selected as an at-large entrant for the third time in school history.

The Panthers are in the Gainesville Regional along with No. 1 ranked Florida, Oklahoma State and Florida A&M.

FIU first faces Oklahoma State at noon on Friday in the double-elimination regional. The game will air on ESPNU. Every NCAA Softball Tournament game will be televised by an ESPN channel for the first time ever.

The Panthers (45-13) are back in the tournament for the first time since 2010 after reaching the Conference USA title game, losing to Louisiana Tech 1-0 on Saturday afternoon.

The Cowgirls (35-23) are making their 20th tournament appearance and second in as many years. Oklahoma State has reached the Women’s College World Series seven times.

The Gators are obviously the heavy favorites to advance to the Super Regionals, but don’t sleep on the Panthers. They led the conference in on-base percentage (.384), fielding percentage (.977), earned run average (1.73), strikeouts (358) and opponent batting average (.199).

FIU is also battle tested. Of the other 63 teams in the tournament, the Panthers have faced eight of them, going 13-5.

Want to go? Tickets are available at FloridaGators.com and are as cheap as $5.

Adam H. Beasley: 305-376-3565, @AdamHBeasley

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