The Gators (42-19, 19-5) won a share of the SEC regular-season Championship and powered through to the conference title game, where the Gators fell to No. 3 Alabama 4-0.
Florida now opens the door to a wide-open postseason and a chance to win a third national title.
UF, like the rest of the SEC, received great respect from the NCAA selection committee and earned a No. 4 seed for the tournament and a top seed in their region.
The Gators took a little break from softball before regional play begins. The entire team and staff spent time at head coach Tim Walton’s lake house Monday, where they rode jet skis and boats in an attempt to get away from competition for a few moments.
“It was just really refreshing to get away from the softball field and get to hang out with the team, outside of the field, outside of softball,” senior Kendyl Lindaman said. “I think it was just the small break that we really needed.”
Replenished, the Gators now host No. 2 Baylor, No. 3 South Alabama, and No. 4 South Florida in Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. The winner of the double-elimination Gainesville Regional will advance to host one of the NCAA Super Regionals and move one step closer to the Women’s College World Series.
Half of Florida’s roster, including sophomore Julia Cottrill and junior transfer Charla Echols, will be playing in their first NCAA postseason.
“It's my first one, so I don't know what KSP feels like in the postseason,” Echols said. “I'm really excited for our fans to get in there, and I'm excited to get the postseason feel.”
For others, the feeling of making it back into the World Series is something they’ve yearned to experience again since the last pitch in the NCAA Tournament 716 days ago.
“We want that feeling of getting those OKC hats and going to the World Series and being able to compete for national championships,” senior Kendyl Lindaman said.
Lindaman reeled home six RBI at the SEC Tournament and said she feels increased confidence as the Gators embark on their fight to return to the Women’s College World Series.
Florida and Lindaman now take on South Florida (29-17), whom they faced four times this season. The Gators defeated the Bulls each time, 6-3 and 15-0 kick off the season and 9-1 and 2-1 in April.
USF’s ace pitcher, Georgina Corrick, struggled against UF earlier in the season, but now boasts a .97 ERA, the ninth-lowest in NCAA D1 Softball.
“She's a really good pitcher,” Echols said. “We will have to come in with our A-game because we know she is.”
As far as Florida’s pitching staff, All-SEC Second Team junior Elizabeth Hightower, senior Natalie Lugo (16-2) and Katie Chronister should all see action on the mound this weekend.
On the flip side of the bracket, South Alabama (30-19) battles Baylor and boasts a 1-0 defeat of powerhouse No. 3 Alabama. Second-seeded Baylor (27-21) lost the last 16 of their 23 games.
Florida will throw out the first pitch of the Gainesville Regional Friday at 2 p.m. The game will be broadcast live on ESPNU. The action continues Saturday and Sunday, with playtimes depending on results.