Special to Gatorsports.com
COLUMBIA, Missouri — If Florida has to play away from Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, Mizzou Softball Stadium may just do as a home away from home.
The No. 4 Gators won their fourth SEC softball tournament trophy Saturday with a 3-1 win over No. 14 South Carolina. The top-seeded Gators (50-8) swept Missouri here to end the regular season and then they rolled through Alabama, Tennessee and USC the last three days, thanks in part to 11 home runs.
“It can go both ways. They could get sick of each other or play like we did. It was an easy decision,” UF coach Tim Walton said of the decision to stay in Columbia after last weekend’s regular-season ending series.
Third seed South Carolina (45-13) scored in the first inning on a Kenzi Maguire’s double, a groundout and then a sacrifice fly by Cayla Drotar.
But that was all the Gamecocks could manage off Aleshia Ocasio (20-6), who tossed a two-hitter and struck out three in the complete-game effort.
“I prepared by watching some film and I knew my teammates would have my back,” Ocasio said. “We stayed within ourselves.
“This conference is tough conference to play in. It’s an honor to be in this conference and it’s an honor to have won this conference championship and this season championship. I’m really excited about what this team did.”
Florida, which won its fourth consecutive SEC regular-season title, took the lead for good when Amanda Lorenz hit her 10th home run of the season and second of the tournament in the third inning. Ocasio reached on a single and was bunted to second by Sophia Reynoso. Alex Voss then walked before Lorenz drilled a shot over the center field fence off South Carolina starter Kelsey Oh (13-5).
“We had a lot of fun,” Lorenz said of the 10-day stay. “We bonded so much as a team even more, we are already close, but this was 24-7. We grew closer as a team. It was a fun time.”
“We are excited to go home with a cool trophy.”
The Gators last won the tournament in 2013 and this year became the first program since 2014 to win both the SEC regular-season and tournament championships.
“I think it comes down to our seniors,” Walton said. “The four seniors we have, have been the rock and our foundation. They had never won the SEC Tournament championship and they put that on their list of things they wanted to accomplish. I give them a lot of credit for buying in and working really hard and making this special.”
UF, which will host the regional and Super Regional should it advance, will find out who will join them in the opening weekend of the NCAA tournament on the Selection Show at 10 p.m. Sunday on ESPN2.
2018 SEC All-Tournament Team
Caylan Arnold, Tennessee
Nicole DeWitt, Florida
Cayla Drotar, South Carolina
Tiara Duffy, South Carolina
Meghan Gregg, Tennessee
Mary Haff, Arkansas
Amanda Lorenz, Florida
Aleshia Ocasio, Florida
Dixie Raley, South Carolina
Katie Warrick, Arkansas
Janell Wheaton, Florida
Tournament MVP: Amanda Lorenz, Florida