Ridaught: Gator offense key to spot in WCWS

The Florida softball team and head coach Tim Walton are just two wins away from advancing to its 11th Women’s College World Series appearance in program history.

The Gators (47-16), who are seeded 14th, will play a Best-of-3 Super Regional series at No. 3 seed Virginia Tech seeking their first WCWS appearance since 2019.

Florida advanced by winning the NCAA Gainesville Regional with a dominating 11-0 win against Wisconsin.

Other than the 2020 shortened season due to COVID-19, Florida has only missed a Super Regional appearance once since 2007 (in 2012).

Of the 14 appearances from 2007-2022, this marks only the second time that the Gators have competed in a Super Regional on the road.

In last year’s Super Regional, Florida was swept at home by Georgia. They were shut out in both games.

But this year’s team has proven it can hit.

Florida had 15 hits against Wisconsin, 10 hits in a 7-1 win against Georgia Tech, and 10 hits in a 10-1 win in the first game of the regional against Canisius.

During the NCAA Gainesville Regional, Florida batted .461 (35-for-76) with 28 runs scored, 27 RBI, three doubles, one triple and two home runs.

They also stole three bases against Wisconsin, which tied the program’s single-season record of 129 that was originally set in 2007 (129-for-152).

The Gators are one of only 16 teams remaining with a total of eight Super Regional teams advancing to the WCWS.

Defending national champion Oklahoma is the top overall seed despite a 4-3 loss in eight innings to Oklahoma State in the Big 12 tournament championship game.

Florida head softball coach Tim Walton
Florida softball head coach Tim Walton

But the Sooners, who will host Central Florida in the Super Regional, outscored their three opponents 37-2 in the Norman (Okla.) Regional to advance.

Florida State, last year’s WCWS runner-up and the 2018 champion, was upset by Mississippi State in the Tallahassee Regional, ending the No. 2 seed Seminoles’ season at 54-7.

In the Tuscaloosa Regional, No. 6 seed Alabama was upset by Stanford. The Crimson Tide (44-13) failed to advance to the super regional for the first time in school history.

Meanwhile, No. 11 Tennessee, No. 13 seed Washington and No. 15 seed Missouri were also eliminated in regional play.

For Florida to advance to its 11th WCWS, I believe it will come down to the Gators’ offense.

UF holds the best batting average (.461) and also ranks first in scoring (9.33 runs per game) among teams in this season’s NCAA Tournament.

The Hokies are batting .316 and average 6.13 runs per game.

However, Virginia Tech batted just .299 in five games and scored a total of 27 runs in the Blacksburg Regional, where they lost 5-4 to Kentucky before flipping the score in the championship game against the Wildcats.

Florida also ranks third among tournament teams with a 0.82 ERA and third in stolen bases (an average of two per game).

The Hokies host the first-ever Blacksburg Super Regional this afternoon at 2 p.m. (ESPN 2). Game 2 will be at noon on Saturday (ESPN).

An if-necessary game would be on Sunday (TBA).

The winner will advance to the WCWS set for June 2-10 in Oklahoma City.

 

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