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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Florida softball run-rules South Alabama to bring home NCAA Regional Championship

The Gators will play in the NCAA Super Regionals Friday

Florida freshman right-handed pitcher Keagan Rothrock pitches in the circle during the Gators' 9-1 win over South Alabama on Sunday, May 19, 2024.
Florida freshman right-handed pitcher Keagan Rothrock pitches in the circle during the Gators' 9-1 win over South Alabama on Sunday, May 19, 2024.

The Florida softball team earned the No. 4-seed in the NCAA Regionals, after coming out on top as the 2024 SEC Tournament Champions. For the 18th time at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium, the Gators were set to host a regional.

“There's nothing better than sleeping in your own bed, playing on your own field and having your own crowd,” redshirt senior shortstop Skylar Wallace said.

Wallace went 2-for-31 through an up-and-down 10-game stretch in April and admitted that there were sleepless nights and times out on the field with tears in her eyes. However, she responded to finish off a sensational season for the Gators riding a current season-high 11-game hitting streak.

“I think there was just a little loss of confidence, a little kind of bummed out and then it snowballed with the outs,” head coach Tim Walton said. “After that, I think she did a really good job- it was more about the process as opposed to the result. And things have been really better since then.”

Wallace’ dominant performance along with the Gators’ consistent offensive production helped Florida defeat Florida Gulf Coast Friday 6-0. UF had a quick turnaround Saturday, but it came out of the Gainesville Regional with a run-rule 9-1 victory over South Alabama.

An explosive third inning offensively set in motion Florida’s (49-12, 17-7 SEC) run-rule victory over South Alabama (34-20-1,16-8 SBC) 9-1 to secure UF a spot in the NCAA Super Regionals.

UF right-handed pitcher Keagan Rothrock had a rookie-regional debut in the circle over the weekend. The freshman improved to 29-6 on the season and 5-0 in the postseason, but she said nothing has changed from her pregame ritual to the socks she wears on the wrong feet.

“I think I also was going through a pitching slump with my mindset. I was struggling to find the confidence to throw,” Rothrock said. “[My] teammates and other pitchers on this staff helped me rediscover that.”

Rothrock’s confidence shined through Florida’s first two regional-victories as she threw two shutout innings during Sunday’s matchup. Freshman pitcher Ava Brown then subbed in to relieve her in the bottom of the third.

UF sophomore catcher Jocelyn Erickson sparked the Gators offense to put Florida ahead 2-0 in the top of the first inning. Faced with two outs and a full count, she smashed a two-run home run shot over the right field wall.

“Jocelyn – you can’t get through to her,” junior center fielder Kendra Falby said. “She’s so locked in, you know what is about to happen. She’s about to do some damage.”

The 2024 SEC Player of the Year carried her fiery momentum into the top of the third inning. Faced with a familiar full count and two runners on, Erickson’s eyes met the ball, and the sophomore delivered an RBI single.

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“Coach Walton came up to me today and was like, don’t focus too much on the pitcher, just focus on yourself,” Erickson said. “So that’s what I was going up there to do, I knew we needed to get ahead early in the game.”

Florida built off Erickson’s momentum and recorded six more runs off five hits, forcing the Jaguars to make two pitching changes. The inning highlighted two-run hits by Brown and junior left fielder Korbe Otis. Wallace extended the lead to 9-1 with her 14th RBI of the postseason.

In the bottom of the fourth frame, the Jaguars plated its lone run off Brown, but needed one more run to extend the ball game. Brown stepped up and ended the frame 1-2-3.

“I feel like every inning from here on out is an opportunity to learn and grow confidence,” Brown said. “I caught the ball and the first thing I did was I went to my catcher, Emily Wilkie, because she did just as big a role as I did.”

Florida will next host the NCAA Super Regionals at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. The Gators will have the chance to advance to the Women’s College World Series in front of their home crowd. Game 1 will be Friday in Gainesville against either 13th-seeded Louisiana or Baylor.

Contact Hailey Hurst at hhurst@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @haileyjhurst.




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Hailey Hurst

Hailey Hurst is a second-year journalism major with a focus in sports media and a sports reporter for The Alligator. In her free time, she enjoys going to the beach and cheering for Miami sports teams.


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