GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The top-ranked Florida softball team is just two wins away from making back to the Women’s College World Series for the fourth time in five years.
But those two wins will have to come within a 3-game span against a fellow SEC team in No. 16 Alabama.
Florida (53-7) and Alabama (45-16) are one of three all-SEC Super Regional matchups as the conference looks to send up to 5 teams to Oklahoma City. It’s also the second-straight year Florida faces an SEC team in the best-of-3 Super Regional round of the NCAA Tournament. The Gators were swept by Georgia at home last year.
The matchup also comes after a regular-season schedule in which the two SEC teams did not play a 3-game series against each other for the first time since 2013.
“I think the one thing with the way the formula of the league schedule is, it seems like every year you have somebody that you’re accustomed to playing not on your schedule,” Florida coach Tim Walton said. “But we’ve played them a bunch over the past few years. We’ve had some very meaningful games, none bigger than this weekend.”
Florida went 3-1 in last week’s Regional at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium that was capped by a 2-0 must-win victory over Oklahoma state on Sunday.
Alabama advanced by sweeping its regional, winning back-to-back games against No. 1 ranked but unseeded Minnesota.
The Florida-Alabama matchup looks to be a low-scoring affair with 2 of the best pitching staffs in the country going against each other.
The Gators lead the nation with a collective 0.71 ERA and are led by sophomore Kelly Barnhill (0.35 ERA, No. 1 nationally) and senior Delanie Gourley (0.71 ERA, No. 4 nationally). Alabama has a collective 1.49 ERA that ranks ninth in the country with hard-throwing junior Alexis Osorio (22-7, 1.22 ERA) leading the staff.
How to watch
All three games will be televised on ESPN. Thursday and Friday’s games begin at 7 p.m. and the Sunday game (if necessary) starts at 5 p.m. All three can are available on a live stream through WatchESPN.
- Florida is 31-35 all-time in Alabama but is 8-5 since 2013.
- The Gators swept the Crimson Tide in the 2014 Women’s College World Series championship series to claim the school’s first NCAA softball championship.
- Pitcher Kelly Barnhill on Wednesday was named one of the three finalists for the USA Softball Player of the Year. On the season, Barnhill leads the country with a 0.35 ERA and has a 22-3 record overall.