Ridaught: Recapping a big weekend for Gators

The Florida Gators softball team celebrates earning a trip to the Women's College World Series.
It was a good weekend for Florida Gators sports fans.
Photo by Catherine McCarthy

In a matter of three days Gator Nation got some good news in three different sports.

On Saturday, guard Will Richard (6’4, 206) announced he was returning for his senior season with the Gator men’s basketball team after going through the NBA draft process.

He averaged 11.4 points and 3.9 rebounds as a junior, hitting a career-high 70 3-pointers (.345) while appearing in all 36 games with 35 starts.

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The two-time Southeastern Conference Academic Honor Roll selection had 20 double-figure scoring performances, including six 20-point games.

Richard matched his season-high with 23 points on 8-for-12 shooting to lead the team in scoring in the win vs. No. 16 Alabama.

He has 744 points, 287 rebounds and 121 3-pointers made in 68 appearances with 65 starts over his two seasons at Florida.

On Sunday, with the series tied 1-1, the national No. 4-seed Florida softball team defeated Baylor, 5-3, in the Gainesville Super Regional.

Freshman pitcher Keagan Rothrock (7 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 K) pitched a complete game to improve to 30-7.

Florida built a 4-0 lead in the second inning on a two-run home run by freshman second baseman Mia Williams in what would prove to be the game-winning RBI.

The Gators added some insurance in the bottom of the fifth inning on a sacrifice fly to center field by freshman third baseman Ariel Kowalewski, which scored sophomore catcher Jocelyn Erickson.

With the win, the Gators advanced to the Women’s College World Series for the 12th time in program history.

Florida (51-13) will face No. 5 Oklahoma State (49-10) at 9:30 p.m. on Thursday in Oklahoma City, Okla.

Florida fans got a double dose of good news on Monday.

The Gator baseball team earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, its 16th straight appearance, which trails only Vanderbilt (18) nationally.

Thanks to a strength of schedule that was ranked No. 1 in the country and a top-25 RPI, Florida was one of 11 SEC teams (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi St., South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt) to make the field, which was the most teams from one conference of the 30 conferences that received an invite.

The national top 16 seeds are Tennessee (50-11), Kentucky (40-14), Texas A&M (44-13), North Carolina (42-13), Arkansas (43-14), Clemson (41-14), Georgia (39-15), Florida St. (42-15), Oklahoma (37-19), NC State (33-20), Oklahoma St. (40-17), Virginia (41-15), Arizona (36-21), UC Santa Barbara (42-12), Oregon St. (42-14), and East Carolina (43-15).

Florida (28-27) will be about an hour away from the WCWS in Stillwater, Okla., and will play No. 2 seed Nebraska (39-20) in the Stillwater Regional hosted by Oklahoma State, which is making its 11th straight appearance.

The top seed Cowboys will play #4 Niagara (38-15) at 7 p.m.

Also yesterday, basketball guard Walter Clayton Jr. announced he was returning for his senior season.

Florida’s leading scorer in 2023-24 at 17.6 points per game, posted 15 games with 20-plus points and exploded for 33 points in the Gators’ NCAA Tournament game vs. Colorado.

The All-SEC and All-SEC Tournament selection helped the Gators average a program-record 85.6 points per game.

Clayton’s, whose 633 points last season rank fifth in program history, competed in the NBA G League Elite camp during the NBA Draft process, averaging 15.5 points in his two games at the event.

The Lake Wales, Fla., native appears in several UF top 10 lists with 93 3-pointers made (8th/single season), 42 consecutive free throws made (tied-1st), 23 straight games with a 3-pointer (tied-8th, active streak entering 2024-25) and an .877 free throw percentage (10th/single season).

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