A national championship is within reach for the Gators softball team.
Florida earned its place in the Women’s College World Series with a dominant postseason performance, scorching through its regional unscathed and fending off a stern Super Regional charge from Tennessee this past weekend.
This week’s trip to Oklahoma City for the 2019 Women’s College World Series marks the Gators’ third-consecutive appearance at the event. Coach Tim Walton’s teams have competed in ten of the last 12 WCWS, a mark that leads the nation over that span.
The two bracket, double-elimination tournament sets the No. 5 Gators against No. 13 Oklahoma State on Thursday to open play. Joined alongside them in Bracket 2 are No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 8 Alabama, due to match up in the following game.
Oklahoma State arrives in Oklahoma City for its eighth appearance all-time in the WCWS, and the first since 2011. It is also the first trip to the tournament for fourth-year head coach Kenny Gajewski, who leads a group capable of beating elite teams but marred with inconsistencies.
The Cowboys punched their ticket to the WCWS after a strong regional victory and a closely contested Super Regional series win over Florida State in Tallahassee.
Oklahoma State has 10 wins over top-15 opponents and is 49-29 in games decided by two runs or less since the start of the 2016 season.
However, Oklahoma State does have brutal defeats to UT Arlington and Colorado State on its resume.
The Gators enter this matchup and the rest of this tournament with confidence and newfound grit, the latter earned through their toughness last weekend against Tennessee.
Kelly Barnhill will once again start for Florida, and the back-to-back SEC Pitcher of the year looks to command the circle for the Gators. In the midst of a spectacular season, the senior finds herself only 14 strikeouts away from Stacey Nelson’s 2008 program record (363).
Florida has also increased production at the plate. Infielder Hannah Adams has played a huge role in providing a spark for UF's lineup this postseason, leading the team with a .429 batting average and nine hits.
Outfielder Amanda Lorenz also continues to lead Florida’s offensive production and is close to becoming the only player in program history to hit for over .400 in three different seasons.
UF holds an all-time 26-16 record in WCWS play, and has advanced to the championship series in five of its last nine tournament appearances.
If Florida is to claim its third national championship, and its first since back-to-back titles in 2014 and 2015, it will need to advance out of a challenging bracket and rely on veteran experience to lead the way.
Follow Jack Braverman on Twitter @jack_braverman. Contact him at [email protected].