UF SOFTBALL

Huskies present similar Super Regional test for Gators


Florida's Lauren Haeger (17) hits a grand slam late in the second game of the Gainesville Regional at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium on May 17. The Gators shutout Stetson 14-0 to advance to Saturday's Super Regional against Washington.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, May 24, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, May 23, 2014 at 6:44 p.m.

It’s a familiar setting for the Florida softball team as the No. 6 Gators prepare for Saturday's Super Regional matchup with No. 8 Washington.

Facts

Super Regional

(Best-of-3; x-if necessary)
Saturday: Washington (36-13) at Florida (48-11), 1 p.m., ESPNU
Sunday: Washington at Florida, noon, ESPN
x-Sunday: Washington at Florida, 3 p.m., ESPN

And so far it has worked pretty well for coach Tim Walton.

Florida has faced Pac-12 teams in four of the last five Super Regionals and has found success in each one. On Saturday at 1 p.m., it’s the Huskies who will have to battle a talented Florida team in a different time zone under the oppressive Florida sun.

But don’t think Walton is taking anything for granted.

“This is probably as good a team as we’ve ever faced in a Super Regional,” Walton said. “I’ve watched a ton of video and they’re really good. They’re coming into their own.”

Florida (48-11) has won 10 consecutive Super Regional games under Walton over a span of six years, and if these Gators can win two more they’ll be headed to the Women’s College World Series for the second straight year and sixth time in seven years.

Florida lost its first Super Regional at Texas A&M in 2007 in three games, but hasn’t lost a game, let alone a series, since then.

“There are a number of reasons,” Walton said. “Part of it is that we’ve been a national seed each time. That has something to do with it. At times, it has been the matchup. At times, we’ve been the better team. At times, we’ve had the better pitching.

“We play a complete schedule and that’s part of it. We play in a lot of close games in the conference and non-conference. I can’t say it has been maturity because last year we were one of the youngest teams in the nation.”

Playing at home is an advantage in any sport and Walton is hoping the combination of heat, humidity and crowd noise will be a factor this weekend.

Temperatures are expected to be in the low 90s for each of the games.

“The weather is the biggest advantage,” Walton said. “The time zone (difference) is an advantage as well. But we want it hot. You can’t prepare for the heat. I had a hard time getting used to it when I took the job. It took me a year to get used to it.

“And our crowd can be loud and intimidating. Not with any antics, just with the noise.”

The two teams are almost mirror images of each other.

Florida, the fifth national seed, won the Gainesville Regional by a combined score of 29-0. Washington, the 12th seed, won the Seattle Regional by a combined 26-0.

Florida finished in a tie for third in the SEC, while Washington was fourth in the Pac-12. Both teams went through struggles in the middle of their seasons. Washington (36-13) lost 10 of 16 games before finishing with 12 wins in its last 13.

Florida has Kelsey Stewart (.430 average, 33 stolen bases). Washington has Victoria Hayward (.426, 28 steals). Washington counters UF’s Lauren Haeger (19 homers, 64 RBIs) with a slugger of its own in Kylee Lahners, who has 17 homers and 61 RBIs.

Florida was second in the SEC in fielding, while Washington led the Pac-12. Florida has three potential starting pitchers in Hannah Rogers, Delanie Gourley and Haeger. Washington has Bryana Walker and Kaitlin Inglesby, who have combined for a 34-12 record.

Another advantage for Florida is power throughout the lineup, as the Gators have 80 homers to Washington’s 48. Of course, the ball carries better in the Florida humidity.

“Washington was a team that I had in my preseason top five,” Walton said. “This is a (Women’s) College World Series type of matchup.”

Which is where the winner will be heading.

Florida has won 10 consecutive NCAA Super Regional games, all at home, over the past six seasons under Tim Walton.

Year UF Seed Beat Scores

2013 2 UAB 4-3, 1-0

2011 5 Oregon 9-1 (5), 7-0

2010 4 Arizona St. 8-0, 5-2

2009 1 Cal 2-0, 2-1

2008 1 Cal 4-3, 4-3 (9)

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

▲ Return to Top