SDSU Mountain West NCAA
Aztec Mac Barbara. Photo credit: Derrick Tuskan via

The back-to-back Mountain West champion San Diego State softball team is UCLA-bound to play Liberty at the NCAA Los Angeles Regional.

The Aztecs (35-15) will play in the double-elimination regional after winning the first conference tournament contested since 2006 – which concluded Saturday – by a combined 20-4 score.

SDSU plays the Flames (38-20) at 8 p.m. Friday on ESPNU. The host Bruins (51-5), the No. 2 overall seed in the tournament, meets Grand Canyon (46-11) in the opening game at 5 p.m.

The NCAA Los Angeles Regional is the toughest in the country according to average RPI (32.00), a metric which takes wins, losses and strength of schedule into account.

SDSU is playing in its 13th NCAA tournament and second straight under second-year head coach Stacey Nuveman Deniz – who, by the way, is a UCLA alum and will be matched against another former Bruin, Dot Richardson, who coaches Liberty.

The regional winners will advance to super regional competition for a best-of-three series from May 25-28 at eight campus sites. The remaining eight teams advance to the Women’s College World Series (WCWS), an eight-team, double-elimination tournament with the championship final a best-of-three series.

The event will be held June 1-9 in Oklahoma City.

Four players are hitting at least .350 for San Diego State, including Cali Decker (.381, 4 HR, 32 RBI), Bella Espinoza (.379, 52 R, 28 SB), Mac Barbara (.376, 13 HR, 44 RBI and Jillian Celis (.357, 6 HR, 46 RBI).
MW Pitcher of the Year Allie Light leads the Aztec pitching staff with a 12-6 record, school-record seven saves and a 1.86 ERA in 113 innings, while Sarah Lehman (10-4, 3 SV, 2.58 ERA) and Dee Dee Hernandez (8-3, 4 SV, 3.14 ERA) also were major contributors.

Three of the players earned National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) All-West Region honors – Barbara, who made the first team for a second straight year, and Light and Decker, who each garnered second-team accolades.