Florida opens WCWS play against Oklahoma State, former assistant coach

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Florida softball coach Tim Walton at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. [Cyndi Chambers/Gainesville Sun Correspondent]

The stories they could tell.

Tim Walton and Kenny Gajewski have a history that goes back to being on the same junior baseball college team and winds through shared homes and shared dugouts at Oklahoma and Florida.

Now, the two buddies are in Oklahoma City about to face each other in the Women’s College World Series tonight at 7.

“It’s surreal,” said Gajewski, an assistant at UF under Walton starting in 2012 until he took the Oklahoma State head coaching job in 2015. “Getting here is so hard.”

It’s old hat for Walton, whose team is making its 10th appearance at the WCWS. Gajewski was in the Florida dugout for several of those trips.

“It means a lot to me to be sitting here next to my best friend,” Walton said. “I was in his wedding. It’s really cool.”

The friendships will be put on hold for a couple of hours tonight as the two teams face off in the double-elimination tournament.

Florida got it together in the postseason, winning five of six NCAA Tournament games to get here.

“Our journey has been a little different this year,” Walton said. “We finally figured out ways to win games. And coming here never gets old.”

Florida will have to deal with a potent attack that knocked off defending national champs Florida State in Tallahassee last weekend in three games.

“We didn’t back in here,” Gajewski said. “We earned it. We went and beat a team that didn’t think it could get beat.”

The Cowgirls are led by Madi Sue Montgomery, who is hitting .353 with 47 RBIs, and two-way player Samantha Show, who leads the team with 18 homers, 54 RBIs and 21 wins in the circle.

Florida faced Oklahoma State two years ago in the Gainesville Regional, winning two of three games against the Cowgirls.

Kelly Barnhill pitched the first two games, winning 2-0 while striking out 15 and losing 1-0 despite only allowing three hits. Florida won that regional on a Delanie Gourley shutout.

That was a long time ago and Okie State has battled its way back to Oklahoma City for the eighth time, but its first in eight years.

The winner of tonight’s game plays the late game Friday at approximately 9:30 EDT. The loser of the game takes the day off and returns to face an elimination game Saturday at about 2:30 p.m.

TALE OF THE TAPE

Game 3 — WCWS (Oklahoma City)

Florida; Okla. St.

49-16; Record; 44-15

.264; Batting; .292

52; HR; 80

.409; Slug % ;.518

263; Walks; 235

32-34; SB; 57-61

1.75; ERA; 2.75

37; Opp HR; 31

.178; Opp BA; .241

125; OPP BB; 158

22; Errors; 52

.987; Field %; .970

Women’s College World Series

USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium

At Oklahoma City, Okla.

Today

13 seed Oklahoma State (44-15) vs. 5 Florida (49-16), 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2, 92.1-FM/1230-AM