For the first time since 2011, Florida will play for the national championship in softball.
The Gators defeated Baylor 6-3 on Sunday, earning passage to the championship series of the 2014 Women's College World Series by blitzing the Bears for the second time in this trip to Oklahoma City. Florida went up 5-0, then endured a three-run inning from Baylor in the fifth; all the Gators did in response was add an insurance run, and shut down the Bears in the sixth and seventh.
Florida has done its work with offense, scoring 70 runs in the NCAA Tournament and 21 in OKC. It has done work on the mound, especially when Hannah Rogers is on it, yielding just seven runs in NCAA play and just Baylor's three on this Sunday in the WCWS. And on Sunday, it did incredible work on defense, with phenomenal plays from Kathlyn Medina and Stephanie Tofft helping set the tone early.
This Florida team is as complete as any of the six that Tim Walton has taken to Oklahoma City, replete with slappers, sluggers, aces, and whizzes. These Gators can churn out runs with singles, dart along the lines for extra bases, crush key home runs, punch out batters in key situations, stifle offenses with miserly pitching, and smother even the hardest-hit balls. There is no easy way to beat them, and few teams have been able to do that this season without significant aid from the Gators — still rather young at a lot of positions, if we're looking for weaknesses.
The two teams left on the other side of the WCWS bracket, Alabama and Oregon, have both seen Florida this year, and both have fallen to the Gators, with Oregon dropping an in-season matchup and a Friday showdown in Oklahoma City and Alabama taking a series in Gainesville while dropping the second game.
Florida knows it can beat the rest of its foes.
Now it's just up to the Gators to do so.