The No. 2 Gator softball team opens the Women’s College World Series (WCWS) versus No. 7 Georgia on Thursday evening. The game versus the Southeastern Conference rival is at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and begins at 7 p.m. ET. Despite the Gators losing its only regular-season series against the Bulldogs, Florida won the series finale 5-1.
After the Gators won in a thrilling fashion against Texas A&M, the Gators traveled to Oklahoma City. In hot and dry conditions, Florida spent Tuesday afternoon on the field for Open Practice Day, signing autographs and more. Additionally, the team spent time being filmed to promote the WCWS.
Here are notable facts heading into the first game:
- UCLA Bruin Rachel Garcia won 2018 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year over 2018 SEC Pitcher of the Year Kelly Barnhill, 2018 SEC Player of the Year Amanda Lorenz and 2018 Big 12 Pitcher of the Year Paige Parker.
- Nicole DeWitt, Barnhill and Lorenz earned NFCA All-American honors. This is Lorenz’s third All-American honor, while Barnhill has been honored twice.
- UF leads the country with 348 walks, needing two walks to break the single-season record set by Auburn with 349 in 2016.
- The nine Women’s College World Series appearances are the most by any program in the country since 2008. During that span, the Gators have made the championship series five times and have won two national titles (2014 & 2015).
- Lorenz has reached base safely in every game this season, hitting .615 (8-for-13) in the NCAA postseason.
Florida (55-9) and Georgia (48-11) faced off in Athens, Georgia, from March 16-18. The Gators lost the first two games by a combined score of 16-5. Georgia pitcher Brittany Gray improved to 13-0 in two games versus Aleshia Ocasio in the first game and Barnhill in the second.
However, the Gators managed a decisive 5-1 win with Aleshia Ocasio in the circle in the last game. But Georgia is without Gray, who had surgery to repair an injury to her right biceps. She led the Southeastern Conference and ranked second nationally with a 0.48 ERA. She struck out 134 opposing hitters in 2018.
Florida Head Coach Tim Walton emphasized his appreciation to be in the WCWS and highlighted the depth of the teams, coaches and umpires.
“So the depth of college softball is at its best. The depth of the athletes, the depth of the pitching and heck, even the umpiring. The umpiring is as good as I’ve seen it in a long, long time.”
The Gators must win today to avoid playing an elimination game on Saturday, June 2. If Florida wins, they would play UCLA or Florida State on Friday, June 1. You can find the 2018 WCWS bracket here.