Florida softball swept their three-game set at Tennessee this weekend, giving the No. 2 Gators (59-2, 27-1) their second SEC championship. Stacey Nelson earned her 38th win of the season, pitching seven innings in the Gators' 5-3 win Sunday afternoon. Nelson (38-2) also was the winning pitcher in the doubleheader sweep Saturday when UF won 4-2 and 6-5 in 11 innings. Nelson pitched 21 innings over the three games and allowed six runs for a 2.00 ERA.
Nelson will now have time to pack her pitching arm in ice before the Gators face Ole Miss in the first round of the SEC Tournament Thursday in Baton Rouge.
The softball team has really done something historic. When UF won their first conference crown in 1998, it was only the second year the SEC and Florida had softball. You can't discount a conference championship, but the talent level has got to be way beyond what the 1998 team had. The modern Gators have excelled, allowing four runs or more only six times this season (four runs is important because a grand slam can't beat you). Not only do they have the ability to crush opponents (35 wins by four runs or more), they can win in the clutch. (11 wins in one-run games, their two losses were by one run as well.) With Nelson throwing, UF now has what every powerhouse has; a shutdown starter.
The Gators are relatively young, with only one senior and nine freshmen. But a majority of them were with the team when UF lost last season in the Super Regionals to Texas A&M. They are battle tested and the pressure of the next few weeks should not get to them. The Gators have already won 59 games, so another eight to get to Oklahoma City should not be a problem.