The Gators softball team rejoiced in victory on Saturday, though the season is far from over.
No. 9 Florida had much to celebrate after defeating No. 4 Alabama in a 2-1 thriller in College Station, Texas.
It secured its second-consecutive SEC Tournament title and made up for a three-game sweep on its home turf against its storied conference foe less than a month ago.
Senior ace Kelly Barnhill displayed her usual dominance all week, finishing the tournament with a 3-0 record, a 0.33 ERA and a .075 opponent batting average, more than enough to earn Tournament MVP.
The offense showed signs of activity, and outfielder Amanda Lorenz, shortstop Sophia Reynoso and infielder Hannah Adams were recognized on the SEC All-Tournament team alongside Barnhill for their efforts with the bats.
The celebrations must quickly come to an end, however, because the NCAA Regionals begin this week.
UF understands this all too well.
Such is evidently the case when it has appeared in 17 straight NCAA tournaments, with nine trips to the Elite Eight of college softball – the Women’s College World Series – where the Gators notched back-to-back national championships in 2014 and ’15.
The road to the Women’s College World Series truly begins this weekend, when the Gators’ Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium will open its gates to host an NCAA Regional for the 15th consecutive year – one for each year of Tim Walton’s reign as coach.
National No. 5 seed Florida will play host to Stanford, Boise State, and Boston University from May 17 through the 19. The winner of the double-elimination regional will stay in Gainesville for the Super Regional, where it will face the winner of the Knoxville Regional (Tennessee, Longwood, North Carolina and Ohio State).
The winner of the eight different Super Regionals earn invitations to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, a place with which Walton’s Gators teams have great familiarity.
At such a critical point in the season, momentum is of ultimate importance, and Florida enters this weekend with an abundance of it.
Coming off of an impressive, gritty SEC Tournament performance with all phases of the game looking solid, the Gators have the opportunity to make another deep tournament run.
Follow Jack Braverman on Twitter @jack_braverman and contact him at [email protected].