With their victory over Oklahoma State this afternoon to close out the Gainesville Regional, the Florida Gators softball team advances to Super Regional competition for the fifth straight year.
The Gators began their weekend of hosting regional play by facing a familiar foe, Florida A&M, a team which Florida had previously bested twice this season, including in a regular season-ending rout. Delanie Gourley and the Gators dispatched the Rattlers again, 9-0, with Gourley throwing her second no-hitter in the NCAA Tournament.
Florida next met Oklahoma State for the first time, edging past the Cowgirls - coached by former Florida assistant coach and long-time Walton friend Kenny Gajewski - on Saturday with a 2-0 win. The Gators managed just three hits in that outing. Kelly Barnhill, who Gajewski called one of the best pitchers in the world, tossed her fourth one-hitter of the season in a complete game performance. Barnhill produced ten or more strikeouts for the 15th time this season, and recorded her 12th shutout of the year.
That victory advanced Florida to another meeting with Oklahoma State on Sunday at noon, needing just one win to punch their ticket to the Super Regional. But the Gators fell to the Cowgirls, 1-0, setting up a winner-take-all showdown between the two programs for the regional final. Oklahoma State’s Vanessa Shippy scored the only run of that first contest with an RBI double up the middle in the sixth inning.
In Sunday’s second game action, Nicole DeWitt knocked a two-run homer over the outfield bleachers to put the Gators up, 2-0, and Florida eventually shut out Oklahoma State, 5-0, making the Gators Super Regional bound. Gourley threw seven scoreless innings against the Cowgirls.
Florida will serve as one of eight host teams for next weekend’s Super Regional round. It will be the tenth time in program history that UF will host that event round.
The Gators, as the top national seed, will face off against the winner of the Tuscaloosa Regional for a best of three series. Should Florida emerge victorious from that series, the Gators would advance to the eight-team Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.