Takeaways from Florida softball's SEC tournament play; Gators to host NCAA regional

Ainslie Lee
Gator Sports

Florida softball's time alive in the SEC tournament came to an end earlier than the fifth-seeded Gators would have liked. 

After beating 12th-seeded Texas A&M 4-1 on Wednesday and fourth-seeded Kentucky 9-3 on Thursday, Florida's opportunity at the tournament title was erased Friday night when the Gators ran into the top-seeded Arkansas Razorbacks, who went on to win the tournament on Saturday evening with a 4-0 win over Missouri. 

However, Florida's season is far from over as it's projected to host in the NCAA regional tournament, which gets underway on Friday. The Gators learned who they will host on Sunday night. 

UF (43-16) is the No. 14 seed and will host regional. The Gators open with Canisius (32-16) on Friday; Georgia Tech (37-16) plays Wisconsin (28-19) in the other game. 

As the Gators prepares for regionals, here are a couple takeaways from SEC Tournament week. 

Semifinals:Arkansas comes from behind to eliminate Florida from SEC Tournament with 4-1 win

More SEC:Gators survive and advance in SEC tournament with 4-1 win over Texas A&M

Gators' bats are warming up

Gators catcher Sam Roe (13) hits for the Gators as they play the Texas A&M Aggies at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium at the University of Florida in Gainesville, FL on Wednesday, May 11, 2022.

Florida's lineup has seen its fair share of ups and downs this season. 

For example, after scattering 14 hits against Florida Gulf Coast on May 6 in a 8-0 win, the Gators mustered just three hits against the Eagles the very next day in a 3-2 loss. 

However, looking at the Gators' week in tournament play, Florida's lineup appears to be trending upward as it went 24-for-78 from the plate during the week — good for an average of .307. 

The Gators' three-game average from Wednesday through Friday was the better than any average they posted in a three-game, regular-season conference series all season. Florida's best regular-season, conference-series average came against Auburn in early April, when the Gators hit .302 as a team. 

Florida's best night from the batter's box came against Kentucky, which saw the Gators knock 11 hits. good for a .393 average. 

No moment too big for Florida's rookies

Florida's outfielder Kendra Falby (27) scores for the Gators in the top of the first inning against Arkansas in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament, May 13, 2022, at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in Gainesville.

Florida's young roster has been a topic of conversation all season. 

The Gators' leadoff hitter is a freshman in Kendra Falby, as is their most frequent designated player in Reagan Walsh. Florida also has a pair of rookie catchers in Sam Roe and Cali Decker, who split time behind the plate with sophomore Emily Wilkie.  

Not to mention, freshman Lexie Delbrey has been the Gators' the second-most used pitcher this season, coming behind senior Elizabeth Hightower. 

But Florida's showing in the SEC tournament should send a message to future opponents that tells them not to over look the Gators' crop of rookies. 

In Wednesday night's win over the Aggies, it was Falby who stood out from the rest with a 2-for-4, two-run performance that ignited the Gators' offense. 

Come Thursday night, it was Walsh's turn to make some noise as she went 3-for-4 with three RBIs against the Wildcats. 

Friday night was reserved for Delbrey and Roe, who started the semifinal as UF's pitcher-catcher tandem. After a rough start, Delbrey settled into the circle and finished the night having given up two hits, three runs, four walks and striking out four.

Meanwhile, Roe made an ESPN SportsCenter Top 10-worthy grab from the catcher's spot to add to her highlight reel. 

Predictions:Projecting where every SEC team will land, who it will play in NCAA Softball Tournament