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Big 12 tourney champ looks ready for No.  1 overall NCAA softball seed

Big 12 tourney champ looks ready for No. 1 overall NCAA softball seed

The stakes for Texas may not seem quite as high entering this week’s Big 12 softball tournament compared to a year ago.

Unlike last season, the No. 1 Longhorns (45-6) have all but secured a top-eight seed for the NCAA Tournament, which guarantees they’ll play every round possible in Austin before a potential trip to the College World Series later this month. They have also likely locked in a top-four seed, which translates to a more favorable draw come NCAA selection time.

But Reese Atwood, the recently anointed Big 12 player of the year, thinks winning the Big 12 tournament title — especially right on the heels of claiming the school’s first Big 12 regular-season title since 2010 — can give the Longhorns a tangible reward beyond getting more bragging rights about No. 2 Oklahoma State and No. 4 Oklahoma: whoever wins it all in Oklahoma City should secure the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, she said.

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“I think so,” Atwood said. “I think the Big 12 has some of the highest competition, but then you also have a conference like the SEC, which has some really good teams. But I think the Big 12 with us, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma, that’s some big competition. We’ll see what happens.”

Texas pitcher Teagan Kavan, the Big 12’s freshman of the year, said the elite competition in the conference makes a strong case for the top overall seed regardless of the eventual tournament champion.

“That’s up for the committee to decide, but I think the talent that we have in this conference does say a lot,” Kavan said. “It’s going to be really hard decision at the end of the day, but I hope it’s us, obviously.”

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Texas coach Mike White, who’s not ever shy about voicing his opinions on all things college softball, was a bit more cautious about discussing any flowers for the Big 12 Tournament champion. Texas ranks atop every poll as well as the NCAA’s RPI rankings, but he says the NCAA selection committee’s use of KPI analytics for the first time adds a new element to the seeding process.

“That’s a really hard thing to say,” White said when asked whether the Big 12 champion seems like a lock for the top overall NCAA seed. “I mean, there’s a new formula coming in, and I’m not sure how all that is going to figure it out, and there’s always the human factor in there as well. So we’ll just have to wait and see; all we can do is control what we control on the field and just play good softball.”

That approach has worked well all season. Texas enters the tournament at Oklahoma City’s OGE Field at Devon Park as the top seed while three-time defending national champion Oklahoma earned the No. 2 seed. Oklahoma State is the No. 3 seed but has defeated both Texas and Oklahoma in the season series between the teams.

“Just stay relaxed and stay focused,” said Texas freshman outfielder Kayden Henry, another All-Big 12 selection. “I mean, we all have the same plan. We have a goal to get that ring and bring home the first championship for the Texas softball program. So we’ve got to keep the same focus, have the same plan and just stay with the basics.”