Big 12 Previews

NCAA Softball Tournament 2024 Preview, Prediction, Schedule: Tallahassee Regional

UCF softball pitcher Sarah Willis
Big 12 Conference

After the dust settled on Selection Sunday, there were five Big 12 teams in the 2024 NCAA Softball Tournament, with three of them ranked among the top five seeds nationally.

UCF, ranked 42nd in RPI, landed as the No. 3 seed in the Tallahassee Regional, hosted by No. 15 seed Florida State.

If the Knights can make it through the first weekend of action, they will move on to face the winner of the Norman Regional—hosted by No. 2 Oklahoma—in the Super Regionals.


Let’s take a look at the teams in the Tallahassee Regional and predict how things should play out after the first weekend of action.

Tale of the Tape

(15) No. 1 Florida State (43-14)

RPI: 13 | Record vs. Top 25: 4-9 | Scoring: 7.60 (6th) | ERA: 3.67 (145th) | Fielding %: .968 (71st)

After falling to Duke in the ACC Championship Game, Florida State landed the No. 15 seed in the NCAA Softball Tournament and will be hosting their 10th consecutive regional. The Seminoles aren’t the power that we’ve been used to in years past, though, and that’s mostly due to their struggles in the circle. With Kathryn Sandercock now gone, the ‘Noles’s ERA has risen significantly to 3.67–a far cry from their 1.66 ERA from a season ago. Luckily, the offense is still humming in Tallahassee, as FSU ranks top 10 nationally in scoring, batting average (.339), home runs per game (1.49), and slugging (.589). In other words, getting into a shootout with this team would not be wise.

No. 2 Auburn (27-19-1)

RPI: 24 | Record vs. Top 25: 7-13-1 | Scoring: 4.11 (161st) | ERA: 2.47 (32nd) | Fielding %: .976 (16th)

In quite the contrast to host Florida State, Auburn has struggled to put runs on the board, but has no problem in keeping opponents from doing so. Led by senior pitcher Maddie Penta (1.77 ERA), the Tigers pitching staff has a top-35 team ERA and ranks fifth nationally in K/BB ratio (3.83). Penta has pitched 182.1 innings, with Shelby Lowe (2.79 ERA) ranking second in the team with 77.2 IP. AU will do everything they can to keep UCF’s offense from getting hot, and if they can do that, they’ll control the game.


No. 3 UCF (30-23)

RPI: 42 | Record vs. Top 25: 0-16 | Scoring: 5.17 (61st) | ERA: 3.16 (99th) | Fielding %: .979 (8th)

UCF comes into the NCAA Tournament on quite a skid, going 3-8 in their final 11 games of the year. Seven of those losses came to Oklahoma and Baylor, though, so there’s some wiggle room when it comes to expectations. If Sarah Willis (2.44 ERA) and Kaitlyn Felton (3.43 ERA) will be effective, and that gives UCF a fair chance to be one of two teams left playing on Sunday. However, the pressure will fall on the offense. Jada Cody, Chloe Evans, and Johneisha Rowe will have to make the most of their ABs against Auburn. Falling to the loser’s bracket is never good, but in a region as tough as this one, it’s almost a season-ending sentence to drop the first game.

No. 4 Chattanooga (42-14)

RPI: 75 | Record vs. Top 25: 0-4 | Scoring: 5.43 (49th) | ERA: 2.81 (55th) | Fielding %: .968 (66th)

Coming in at No. 75 in RPI, Chattanooga is one of the best four-seeds in the NCAA Tournament. The Mocs won the SoCon Tournament Championship to earn an auto-bid into the Tournament and are making their second appearance in three years. Senior IF Kaili Phillips (.357) is the name to watch on offense with 40 RBI and team-highs in doubles (13) and home runs (15). In the circle, Peja Goold (2.74 ERA) leads a trio of arms with 112.1 IP over 31 appearances.


Schedule – Lafayette, Louisiana

Friday, May 17

Game 1: UCF 11, Auburn 6

Game 2: (15) Florida State 3, Chattanooga 2

Saturday, May 18

Game 3: (15) Florida State 5, UCF 1

Game 4: Auburn 9, Chattanooga 0 (F/5)

Game 5: In Progress

Sunday, May 19

Game 6: Winner Game 5 vs. (15) Florida State | 12:00 p.m. | TBD

Game 7 (if necessary): Winner Game 6 vs. Loser Game 6 | TBD

Prediction: UCF Gets Bumped on Saturday

The NCAA Tournament is not the place that you want to try and “get right,” and it feels like that’s where UCF is right now. Having lost eight of 11 heading into this weekend, I’m not sure where the Knights are mentally, but landing in the Tallahassee Regional is tough. Auburn and Florida State both rank inside the Top 25 of RPI, and UCF is 0-16 against opponents of that caliber in 2024. I don’t like those odds, at all.

I think Auburn knocks off UCF on Friday, and Florida State, who falls to the Tigers in Game 3, ends UCF’s season after the Knights pick up one win over Chattanooga.

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