With every run Florida batted in to home plate, the dugout stacked and taped Powerade cups atop a rally cap.
By the end of the five-inning game, the orange and blue bound 12 cups together in a tower as the team produced a merciless shutout.
The Gators now head to Oklahoma City to compete in the Women’s College World Series for the first time since 2019 and the 11th time in program history. Their ticket was punched after defeating the No. 3 Virginia Tech Hokies in two of three Super Regional games.
Last season UF hosted a Super Regional, but saw its season come to a close after Georgia swept the Gators by a combined score of 10-0 over two games.
Game one of the series in Blacksburg, Virginia, was less than ideal for Florida, as it was shut out 6-0 Saturday. Hokies sophomore outfielder Emma Ritter’s two home runs highlighted the game that was forced to be completed Saturday following harsh weather conditions at the top of the fifth inning Friday.
Despite losing the opening game, Florida’s solid defense in the final two innings bled into Saturday’s second game. The Gators’ series-extending 7-2 victory set the stage for a winner-takes-all Sunday finale.
Virginia Tech senior pitcher Keely Rochard struggled to keep Florida batters off the scoreboard in Sunday’s first inning. UF freshman outfielder Kendra Falby slid home for the first run of the game, scoring off of two defensive errors.
In the second, Florida exploded offensively as sophomore outfielders Katie Kistler and Avery Goelz recorded runs to put their team ahead 3-0. Falby tallied another run for the Gators via a single from redshirt junior infielder Skylar Wallace.
Rochard gave up two more runs in the third, this time to senior outfielder Cheyenne Lindsey and freshman infielder Reagan Walsh. Hokies freshman pitcher Emma Lemley took over in the circle, but the change in pitching style did not stop Florida from taking on four more runs before retiring the side.
Virginia Tech looked to shift the momentum of the game as the Gators led 10-0, making another pitching change with sophomore Mackenzie Osborne. Goelz singled to center field and allowed Kistler to score another run.
A pop fly secured by Lindsey signaled the end of the game. Florida players threw their gloves in the air in jubilation, tackling fifth-year pitcher Natalie Lugo to the ground in glee.
The Gators season started off strong but hit some turbulence as they finished conference play 13-11, dropping critical games against rivals Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee. Florida also persevered through a three-week stretch of games without fifth year infielder Hannah Adams after a hand injury kept her out of the lineup.
UF’s late season performance catapulted it into contention.Florida now prepares to face the best teams in the nation on the biggest stage for collegiate softball at the Women’s College World Series June 2-10.
The other seven teams making the trip to the WCWS are the Oklahoma Sooners, Texas Longhorns, UCLA Bruins, Northwestern Wildcats, Oregon State Beavers, Arizona Wildcats and Oklahoma State Cowgirls.
The Gators first taste of action on the diamond will be against Oregon State June 2. First pitch is set for 7 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN.
Brenda Bogle is a UF journalism senior with a specialization in sports and media. She joined The Alligator in the Fall of 2021.