After a season-long conference grind, the No. 1 Florida softball team is preparing for an opportunity to become SEC Tournament champions.
The Gators haven’t won a conference postseason title since 2013, with the team failing to win more than one game in the tournament since that time.
Florida (50-5, 20-3 SEC) will begin its postseason journey today against No. 8-seeded Ole Miss in the quarterfinals.
The Rebels (37-18, 10-14 SEC) are coming off a narrow 2-1 victory over Mississippi State in the opening round.
While UF and Ole Miss have two vastly different records, anything can happen during tournament time.
Throughout the majority of the season, other SEC teams had trouble keeping up with Florida’s elite pitching and fiery hitting.
Only three teams were able to beat the Gators all year – Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee – but none were able to do so in their series-opening matchups.
Both Auburn and Tennessee won on the back end of a three-game series with UF.
Kentucky did so in the middle of a three-game slate with Florida, but the Wildcats followed the victory with a shutout loss the following day.
In the three defeats, Florida was outscored 11-2.
In the twenty wins the Gators earned in conference play, they controlled the competition by a scoring margin of 109-7.
That was largely in part due to a Florida pitching staff that led the SEC with a 0.75 ERA.
The Gators’ trio of Delanie Gourley, Kelly Barnhill and Aleshia Ocasio pitched with such tenacity during the regular season that allowing runs became a surprising thing to do.
LSU was second in the SEC in earned runs allowed at 82. Meanwhile, Florida led the conference with less than half that number at 39 earned runs.
The Gators were also the only team in the conference to get over 500 strikeouts, earning 539.
UF’s defense was also nothing to scoff at. With a .986 team fielding percentage committing only 19 errors in 55 games, scoring on this team became even more of a struggle.
Florida’s offense backed up the pitching and defense as well throughout the season. The team as a whole averaged a .311 batting average and blasted 44 home runs while swiping 90 of 102 possible stolen bases.
Kayli Kvistad and Amanda Lorenz both hit over .380, while five other players on Florida’s roster batted over .300.
Despite all of the success, just one loss is all it’ll take to knock them out of the tournament.The Gators will face Ole Miss in Knoxville, Tennessee, starting at 2:30 p.m.
Contact Skyler Lebron at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @SkylerLebron.