It wasn’t enough for the Florida Gators to simply return to their winning ways after a surprising opening-game loss in the SEC Tournament last weekend.
No, the Gators of the smaller diamond opened the NCAA Tournament in dominant fashion — as Delanie Gourley fashioned herself an ace once again.
Gourley allowed no hits over five innings on just 58 pitches on Friday, and Florida’s 9-0 lead over Florida A&M led its Gainesville Regional opener to end early because of college softball’s run rule, allowing Gourley to finish with her second no-hitter in postseason play.
That first no-hitter came in 2014, and was also hurled against the Rattlers in an NCAA Tournament opener ended early by the run rule. Gourley is the only Gator to throw a no-hitter in postseason play — a feat, given that 13 Florida pitchers have thrown 28 solo no-hitters or perfect games in program history, with an additional five combined no-hitters — and has thrown five no-hitters, including one perfect game, in her Florida career, a program record.
It’s a testament to the absurd pitching depth recruited and developed by head coach Tim Walton and pitching coach Jennifer Rocha that Gourley has done that despite arguably never being Florida’s best pitcher. Gourley was overshadowed by seniors Hannah Rogers and Lauren Haeger as a freshman and sophomore, respectively, and has been outshined by Aleshia Ocasio and Kelly Barnhill — who, respectively, recorded and have recorded lower ERAs than Gourley in 2016 and 2017 despite Gourley being in the national top five in ERA in the last two seasons — as a junior and senior.
But Gourley has by far the most experience in postseason play of Florida’s trio of aces, and it’s a great sign for the Gators that she rebounded strongly after her shaky first inning against Ole Miss that scuttled hopes of winning the SEC Tournament.
Florida will continue NCAA Tournament play on Saturday with a meeting with Oklahoma State, coached by former Florida assistant coach and long-time Walton friend Kenny Gajewski. If the Gators get by the Cowboys, they would not play again until Sunday, when they would have two chances to advance to Super Regional play by eliminating the victor from the losers’ bracket of the Gainesville Regional.
For TV times and channels and discussion of the Gainesville Regional, see our Weekend Open Thread.