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Sunday, June 23, 2024

California returns to Gainesville a year later in Super Regionals rematch

Maybe history does repeat itself.

A week after hosting a regional including Texas A&M, which knocked UF out of the postseason the last two years, the No. 1 Gators (58-3) will welcome another familiar opponent to Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.

No. 14 California (38-18) will travel to Gainesville to face UF in the NCAA Super Regional for the second straight year. The Bears swept their way through the Tallahassee Regional to return to the Super Regionals.

The best-of-three series will begin Saturday at 8 p.m. with the opening game televised on ESPN. Game 2 will be played Sunday at 6 p.m., and if necessary, the final game is slated to start at 8 p.m. Sunday's action will be broadcasted on ESPN2.

Last year, the Gators beat the Bears by winning the first two games by identical 4-2 scores, with the final victory coming in nine innings.

Unlike last season, however, UF is entering Super Regionals without a postseason loss. This year's squad swept through the regional, while the 2008 Gators dropped one of two to Central Florida before advancing.

Despite its early postseason success, UF isn't losing sight of its ultimate goal of a national title. And even though UF hasn't lost two games to a single opponent in the last two years, the team is not overlooking anyone.

"Any time you get complacent, you're going to get snakebitten, so I won't feel better about where we're at until we're actually somewhere," said UF coach Tim Walton after clinching the Regional on Sunday. "Right now, I think we've done a good job. We've played well. We've done a good job rising to the challenge all season. Now, we've got another challenge here at home."

The forward-looking approach is evident in the Gators as much as it is in their coach. After cruising through regional play in three games &ndash the closest of which was a 7-1 victory against Texas A&M &ndash outfielder Kelsey Bruder said the team wouldn't be focusing on its past successes for long.

"We can savor it for the rest of the day, but Tuesday, it's back to work preparing for the super regionals," Bruder said Sunday. "We came out strong, but we're just happy to move on."

California swept the Tallahassee Regional behind the arm of junior Marissa Drewrey (24-10, 2.12 ERA), who pitched all 21 innings for the Bears. Drewrey took both losses against UF in last year's super regionals.

NELSON ONE OF THREE FINALISTS FOR PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Senior pitcher Stacey Nelson (37-3, 0.43) was named one of top three finalists for the Player of the Year Award presented by the Amateur Softball Association of America on Wednesday.

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UF's ace joins Washington junior pitcher Danielle Lawrie and Arizona State senior outfielder Kaitlin Cochran on the list, which has been narrowed to three from a preseason watch list of 50 players.

All three players are still active in the postseason, as No. 3 Washington and No. 10 Arizona State advanced to super regionals play as well.

The winner will be announced on May 26 in Oklahoma City prior to the Women's College World Series.

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