“This will never happen again.”
UF softball coach Tim Walton received those words in a text message from then-freshman Amanda Lorenz after his team was eliminated in the 2016 NCAA Super Regionals by SEC rival Georgia.
This season No. 4 Florida faces a similar situation.
The Gators (53-8, 20-4 SEC) will host another conference foe, No. 14 Texas A&M, in the Gainesville Super Regional beginning Thursday night at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.
However, Walton isn’t worried about his players, especially Lorenz, trying to keep the same mentality they had after losing to UGA.
“It’s one thing to be able to send a message like that. It’s another thing to deliver on a message like that,” he said. “She (Lorenz) obviously delivered on her promise last year by getting the hit that sent us to the World Series.”
Now two years removed from the heartbreaking defeat to UGA, Lorenz has proven herself as one of the nation’s top players. On Wednesday, she and teammate Kelly Barnhill were named as two of four finalists for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year.
The junior left fielder from Moorpark, California, is first in the SEC in on-base percentage (.575) and walks (61) and is tied for first with 18 doubles on the season. She’s also top-five in batting average (.418), runs scored (68), RBIs (59) and total bases (125). But Lorenz is also staunch defensively, only registering one error on the season and posting a .983 fielding percentage
Barnhill is one of three pitchers picked as a national player of the year finalist. A fellow junior, she boasts a 28-1 record and leads the SEC in strikeouts (300) and games started (34). Barnhill has also pitched five no-hitters in 2018 as well as two combined no-hitters.
But the Aggies (43-16, 13-11 SEC) have a big-time player of their own in first baseman Tori Vidales. The TAMU senior has turned her season around since Florida last faced her on March 26. She boasts a team-high batting average of .353 and has outhit Lorenz with 12 home runs on the year compared to the left fielder’s 10.
“(She’s) a senior leader and one of the best players in the SEC,” Walton said. “She was 100 points lower in batting average when we faced them to where she’s at now.”
Vidales also ranks in the conference's top 10 in RBIs with 57 and walks with 34.
In the circle, Texas A&M holds an ace of its own in senior Trinity Harrington. She’s 13-5 on the season but is tied for the team lead with 11 complete games and six shutout performances. Against the Gators, Harrington threw six innings over two outings and allowed seven hits and three earned. However, her numbers suffered due to the fact that she came on in relief in both appearances with runners on-base.
Yet, the prospect of squaring off against Vidales and Harrington for another series ‒ this time for the chance to go to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City ‒ doesn’t make Lorenz and her teammates even a bit nervous.
“This is the fun time,” she said. “This isn’t the pressure time.”
You can follow Mark Stine on Twitter @mstinejr or contact him at [email protected].